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UN says Myanmar junta elections will fuel violence

UN says Myanmar junta elections will fuel violence
January 31, 2023 Web Desk

BANGKOK, Thailand (AFP) - Junta plans for elections in coup-hit Myanmar this year will "fuel greater violence", a United Nations special envoy said on Tuesday, calling for the international community to unite in opposition.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military toppled democracy figurehead Aung San Suu Kyi's civilian government almost two years ago, alleging massive fraud during elections her party won in 2020.

The junta-imposed state of emergency is due to expire at the end of January, after which the constitution states authorities must set in motion plans to hold fresh elections.

Any military-run elections "will fuel greater violence, prolong the conflict and make the return to democracy and stability more difficult", UN special envoy Noeleen Heyzer said in a statement.

She called for the international community to "forge a stronger unified position" on the planned polls.

The United States has said any elections would be a "sham". Close junta ally Moscow says it supports holding polls.

A spokesman for UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres said on Monday he was "concerned by the military's stated intention to hold elections amid... ongoing arrests, intimidation and harassment of political leaders, civil society actors and journalists".

"Without conditions that permit the people of Myanmar to freely exercise their political rights, the proposed polls risk exacerbating instability," the statement said.

The junta gave existing and aspiring political parties two months to re-register under a strict new electoral law this month, the latest sign it is planning fresh polls this year.

Observers say the planned poll cannot be free and fair under the present circumstances.

The UN Security Council passed its first resolution on the situation in Myanmar last month, urging the junta to release Suu Kyi and all "arbitrarily detained prisoners".

Security Council permanent members China and Russia abstained, opting not to wield vetoes following amendments to the wording. India, which has close ties with the junta, also abstained.

Diplomatic efforts to resolve Myanmar's bloody impasse led by the United Nations and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations regional bloc have made little headway, with the generals refusing to engage with opponents. 

Heyzer met senior junta leaders in the capital Naypyidaw in August last year during her first visit, 10 months after her appointment. The trip drew criticism from both the junta and the military's opponents.

She was denied access to Suu Kyi and junta officials later accused her of issuing a "one-sided statement" of what had been discussed.