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Myanmar junta ends Suu Kyi’s party, much of opposition

Myanmar’s military government has dissolved dozens of opposition parties including that of Aung San Suu Kyi for failing to meet a registration deadline.

March 30, 2023
30 March 2023

Myanmar’s military government has dissolved the ousted ruling party of former leader Aung San Suu Kyi and 39 other parties, state media has announced, over their failure to register for an election set to prolong the army’s grip on power.

The move sparked condemnation from Australia, which said it was “seriously concerned about the further narrowing of political space” in the country and called for democracy to be restored, including credible elections.

The National League for Democracy (NLD) is among dozens of parliamentary parties that were severely weakened by the military’s 2021 coup against Suu Kyi’s elected government and its crackdown on protests against its rule.

The polls, for which no date has been announced, will come amid a deepening crisis in Myanmar, where the military is fighting on multiple fronts to crush ethnic minority armies and a resistance movement formed to counter its lethal suppression of anti-coup dissent.

In a live broadcast late on Tuesday, state-run Myawaddy TV said 63 parties had registered at local or national level and named 40 parties that were automatically disbanded for failure to sign up by Tuesday’s deadline.

The election is almost certain to be swept by the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), a military proxy that was trounced by the NLD in the 2015 election and in a 2020 vote that the generals eventually voided, citing unaddressed irregularities.

The hugely popular Nobel laureate Suu Kyi, 77, is among scores of NLD members jailed since the coup and is serving 33 years for multiple counts of corruption, a breach of a state secrets law and incitement, among other crimes.

Tun Myint, a senior NLD official, said the party would never have registered for the polls with many of its members in jail or “involved in the revolution”.

“It doesn’t matter whether they say our party is dissolved or not. We are standing with the support of people,” Tun Myint told Reuters.

The shadow National Unity Government (NUG), which the junta has declared “terrorists”, said the military had no authority to hold what would be a sham election.

Junta chief Min Aung Hlaing on Monday urged international critics to get behind his efforts to restore democracy.

The election would return Myanmar to the quasi-civilian democratic system that experts say the military can control with the NLD out of the picture.

Outside Myanmar, the Australian government said the army’s decision risked further violence and instability.

“We urge the regime to ensure all stakeholders can participate in Myanmar’s democratic future, and that all voices can be heard,” the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in a statement.

“The people of Myanmar continue to show their courage and commitment to a democratic country in the face of increasing repression and violence by the regime. We will continue to closely monitor the regime’s actions, and call for the restoration of democracy including credible elections.”

Richard Horsey, senior adviser to the International Crisis Group, said the election was dangerous for the country.

“The majority of the population fiercely oppose going to the polls to legitimise the military’s political control, so we will see violence ratchet up if the regime seeks to impose a vote, and resistance groups seek to disrupt them,” said Horsey, who was based in Myanmar for 15 years.

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