Myanmar military junta extends state of emergency

NAY PYI TAW, 1 Aug 2022:

Myanmar’s military junta will extend the state of emergency in force in the country for six more months, state media reported today.

Myanmar has been under a state of emergency since 1 Feb 2021, when the military overthrew the elected government of now imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi – and plunged the country into a deep political, economic and social crisis.

At a meeting of the National Defence and Security Council yesterday, junta chief general Min Aung Hlaing spoke about the “need to extend the declared period for the State of Emergency across the country under Section 425 of the Constitution in order to continue working to return the country to the path of a peaceful and disciplined multiparty democratic system and to hold multiparty democratic general elections.”

State-run newspaper The Global Light of Myanmar reported that members of the National Defence and Security Council “unanimously” supported the proposal to extend the state of emergency.

Clashes between the security forces and the opponents of the junta have become frequent in Myanmar since the coup, leading to increased repression by the military.

Last week, the junta executed four opponents of the regime – including Phyo Zeyar Thaw, a former hip-hop artist and lawmaker from Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party, and veteran activist Kyaw Min Yu – sparking global outcry.

At least 2,138 people have died as a result of violent repression by security forces, while almost 15,000 people have been arbitrarily arrested, according to data collected by non-profit Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

Meanwhile, Japan today called for the release of independent documentary filmmaker Toru Kobuta – who was arrested in Myanmar over the weekend while filming a protest against the military junta in Yangon.

The Japanese government’s deputy spokesperson Seiji Kihara told reporters the Japanese embassy in Myanmar had confirmed the detention of a Japanese man in his 20s by the local police in Yangon.

He added that Tokyo had asked the Myanmar authorities to release him as soon as possible.

Kobuta, who in Japan had filmed the testimonies of Myanmar people who had fled the military regime in their country, is in good health and is being questioned by the authorities at a police station in Yangon, according to Japanese media reports.

Journalists have been one of the main targets of the military junta since it seized power in a coup last year. More than 100 journalists were imprisoned at one point after the coup while independent media have faced persecution and closure.

In April 2021, just three months after the coup, the police arrested another Japanese journalist who was covering a protest in Yangon.

Freelance reporter Yuki Kitazumi, 46, was charged with spreading false news, which is punishable by up to three years in prison, but was released a few weeks later after diplomatic mediation by the Japanese government.