Junta leader consolidates control . . .
On Sunday, General Min Aung Hlaing, who led the February 1 military coup in Myanmar, appointed himself the country’s prime minister and announced that the timeline for holding elections would be pushed back to August 2023, more than a year past his original pledge to hold them within a year of overthrowing the elected government. Both moves were widely condemned by the National Unity Government (NUG), a ‘shadow government’ comprised of pro-democracy activists, leaders of Myanmar’s ethnic minority groups, and ousted members of the National League for Democracy (NLD). The NLD, the junta’s claims notwithstanding, won in a landslide in the November 2020 general elections.
Not going away quietly . . .
The Tatmadaw, as Myanmar’s military is commonly known, has faced blistering criticism from certain corners of the international community. But perhaps most notable is the criticism leveled by the country’s own UN ambassador, Kyaw Moe Tun, a holdover from the ousted government. Despite the Tatmadaw’s efforts to dislodge him, the ambassador has refused to leave his post and is still considered by the UN to be Myanmar’s legitimate representative. Earlier this week, he alerted UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres of a possible massacre of at least 40 people in Myanmar’s northwest, reportedly carried out by the Tatmadaw. According to local monitoring groups, at least 900 people have been killed thus far in the post-coup crackdown on dissent.
Weak international pressure . . .
Also this week, Wendy Sherman, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, met with the NUG’s foreign minister; however, it is not clear that the meeting accomplished much more than a boost of morale, given the U.S.’s lack of leverage over the military government. Meanwhile, after months of inaction and increasing international pressure, ASEAN appointed Brunei’s foreign minister as its special envoy to Myanmar. While the 10-member ASEAN (of which Myanmar is a member) expressed concern about conditions within the country, it stopped short of calling for the release of the estimated thousands of citizens who have been detained, tempering any hopes that ASEAN might play a constructive role in helping to end the violence and instability.