Myanmar junta leader urges foreign powers to back its return to democracy

FILE PHOTO: Myanmar's junta chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, who ousted the elected government in a coup on February 1, presides at an army parade on Armed Forces Day in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, March 27, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo/File Photo

(Reuters) - Myanmar's military ruler on Monday urged his foreign critics to get behind his junta's planned return to democracy, instead of siding with a resistance movement he called "terrorists" bent on destroying the country.

Addressing an annual armed forces day parade, Min Aung Hlaing, whose February 2021 coup plunged Myanmar into chaos, said international condemnation of his military rule was based on false narratives by a shadow National Unity Government (NUG).

The junta will hold an election in August that has already been widely dismissed as a sham. It is likely to be dominated by a proxy party of the military that was trounced in the past two elections.

"The military and government need to take action against the terrorist groups that are trying to devastate the country and are killing people," Min Aung Hlaing said.

"I would like to urge the international community to collaborate with all the efforts of the current government in prudence to be on the right path to democracy."

His coup abruptly ended a decade of tentative democracy and unprecedented economic development in Myanmar, which has been under military rule for five of the past six decades.

Many political parties have been decimated or refuse to take part in the election, with some siding with the shadow NUG, which is seeking international support and backs militias behind guerrilla attacks on security forces.

Human rights groups accuse the military of committing atrocities in operations against the resistance fighters, including attacks on the civilian population. The United Nations says at least 1.2 million people have been displaced.

The junta says it is targeting terrorists, not civilians.

Min Aung Hlaing in his address said Myanmar's sovereignty must be respected and stressed that "lawful actions will be decisively taken" against terrorists, with martial law to be imposed in important areas that needed to be brought under control.

(Reporting by Reuters Staff; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Jon Boyle)

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