Myanmar junta imposes martial law in resistance strongholds

Military chief Min Aung Hlaing ordered five regional commanders to take full control of 37 townships. - Reuters

YANGON (Bloomberg): Myanmar’s military government imposed martial law in 37 townships across the country where clashes with resistance groups have intensified in the past months, signaling more brutal oppression in pro-democracy strongholds.

Military chief Min Aung Hlaing ordered five regional commanders to take full control of the townships, which cover eight provinces and include the regional capitals of Loikaw and Hakha. The move will allow authorities to ensure stability more effectively, the ruling State Administration Council said in a statement.

The decision puts millions of people in more than 11 per cent of the nation’s 330 townships under strict regulations set by the military commanders. Pro-democracy supporters in Sagaing, Magway, Bago and Tanintharyi regions as well as ethnic states like Chin, Kayah, Kayin and Mon will probably face more military interrogations, and night curfews are likely to be extended in many of the townships.

Military courts will hear the majority of criminal cases in the townships, and no appeal for verdicts will be allowed, according to the statement. The military rule follows the junta’s six-month extension of the state of emergency declared after the Aung San Suu Kyi-led civilian government was ousted in the 2021 coup amid allegations of widespread voter fraud, a claim dismissed by international observers.

Min Aung Hlaing said Wednesday that 40% of the country’s townships are facing instability, hinting that security needs to be tightened to restore the rule of law. The US strongly opposed the military’s decision to extend the emergency rule beyond its constitutional limit despite a Myanmar court’s ruling that the extension was in line with the 2008 Constitution.

More than 2,900 civilians have been killed and over 17,600 others have been arrested in the junta’s crackdown on pro-democracy movements since the coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

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