Myanmar’s military government said Wednesday that it would extend the country’s state of emergency by six months, as an armed resistance movement opposed to its rule intensifies across the country.
The decision – which the junta said was needed to “bring the nation to a normal state of stability and peace” – extended the nationwide emergency rule in place since opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was ousted in a military coup in 2021.
Myanmar – which underwent a 10-year experiment with democracy before the insurrection – has since been gripped by violence, as the military continues to crack down on dissent by a patchwork of rebel groups.
More than 4,400 people have been killed and 25,000 imprisoned since Feb. 2021, according to the local monitoring group, Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
The ruling military government’s hold on power appears to be weakening
Over the past few months, Myanmar’s military has suffered huge losses among its troops and territory, which is believed to include the death of a senior commander in northern Shan state, the BBC reported. Supporters of the junta have also turned against their leaders, weakening their position. “The military’s hold on power is more uncertain than at any time in the last 60 years,” a senior Myanmar adviser to Crisis Group told Reuters.
In a column for The New York Times, two Myanmar experts called on U.S. President Joe Biden – who has made countering authoritarianism a feature of his presidency – to help the resistance movement, which has made “unprecedented gains” since the 2021 coup, seizing dozens of towns and military outposts. A democratic Myanmar “could better stand up to increasing Chinese and Russian influence [and] strengthen the Association of Southeast Asian Nations,” they wrote.
Human rights groups say widespread military abuses ongoing
Myanmar is expanding a “vast and secretive” network of prisons that used to jail thousands of pro-democracy activists, a recent satellite analysis by Myanmar Witness, a human rights NGO, found. Researchers mapped more than 100 jails and labor camps but said there were likely to be far more. “Open source data does not allow us to see inside every new building nor ascertain what every block is used for,” the director of Myanmar Witness told The Guardian.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has reported intensifying military abuses including “arbitrary arrests, torture, extrajudicial killings and indiscriminate attacks on civilians”. Concerned governments need to do more to stop the junta from carrying out war crimes, the Asia director of HRW argued, and should urge the UN Security Council to hold Russia and China, which sell weapons to the junta, to account.