Monday, March 1, 2021

Myanmar coup general defends action on TV amid continuing mass protests

His speech drew angry opposition, with protesters banging pots and pans in protest in front of television screens.

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The general leading the coup in Myanmar has made his first TV address, seeking to justify the army’s action amid mass protests.

Gen Min Aung Hlaing said November’s election, won in a landslide by the party of detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, had been unfair. He said the electoral commission had failed to investigate irregularities over voter lists and had not allowed fair campaigning.

He spoke of achieving a “true and disciplined democracy”, a phrase that drew scorn from some opponents of the coup on social media.

The uniformed general promised new elections and to hand power to the winner. A new “reformed” election commission would oversee the polls.

He did not issue direct threats to protesters, saying only that no-one was above the law. He told citizens to “go with the true facts and not to follow feelings of your own”.

His speech drew angry opposition, with images on social media showing people banging pots and pans in protest in front of television screens.

The military seized power last week and declared a year-long state of emergency in Myanmar, also known as Burma, with power handed over to an army junta.

Suu Kyi and senior leaders of her National League for Democracy Party (NLD), including President Win Myint, have been put under house arrest.

Huge protests were held on Monday for a third straight day, along with a nationwide strike, to oppose the coup.

One demonstrating doctor who did not want to be named told the BBC: “Today, we, professionals – especially civil servant professionals such as doctors, engineers and teachers – came out to show that we are all together in this. Our objective is the same – to make the dictatorship fall.”

The US state department said on Monday it had tried to meet with Suu Kyi but its requests had been rejected. Washington said it stood by the people of Myanmar in their right to assemble and protest peacefully.

An Australian economic adviser to Suu Kyi, Sean Turnell, has also been detained and on Monday his family posted a statement on Facebook calling for his immediate release.

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