US urges rejection of Myanmar junta ‘sham’ elections

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday urged the international community to reject the Myanmar junta’s “sham elections” planned for next year, saying they would be neither free nor fair.

The army has justified its power grab by alleging massive fraud during the 2020 elections, in which Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) trounced a military-backed party.

Myanmar has been in turmoil ever since, with fighting across swathes of the country and the economy in tatters even as the junta says it plans to hold fresh polls next August.

The United States “strongly encourages the international community not to endorse the regime’s plans for sham elections next year,” Blinken said at a meeting of regional foreign ministers in Cambodia.

“They can be neither free nor fair under present conditions,” he said at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meet, from which the junta’s top diplomat was excluded over its failure to negotiate with its opponents.

On Wednesday, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov wished the junta “success” in the proposed August 2023 polls during talks with top generals in the capital Naypyidaw.

Lavrov also said Russia backed the junta’s efforts to “stabilise” the country.

Lavrov’s trip “directly flies in the face of ASEAN”, which has led diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis, Blinken said.

Blinken also called for the international community to “increase economic pressure, do more to stop the flow of arms and revenue to the regime.”

Myanmar’s lucrative gas and energy sector has so far escaped sanctions but last month the US said that “all options were on the table”.

The announcement came days after the junta stoked renewed international outrage by executing four prisoners, the country’s first use of capital punishment in decades.

Isolated and sanctioned by many western countries the junta has turned to allies Russia and China — who have been accused by rights groups and a UN expert of arming Myanmar’s military with weapons used to attack civilians. – AFP