The U.N. special rapporteur for Myanmar warned Tuesday that two years after its coup, Myanmar’s military will try to legitimize its hold on power through sham elections this year, and he urged the international community not to recognize or engage with the junta.
“They have been unsuccessful in securing legitimacy,” Tom Andrews said of the military leadership during a news conference on the eve of the anniversary of the coup, which ousted the democratically elected National Unity Government.
“So, what they are attempting to do is create this faux/fake election, in which it looks as if there’s going to be a legitimate, democratically elected government formed so that the page can be turned and they will have the legitimacy after the so-called election that they are failing to get now,” he said.
Andrews, an independent human rights expert whose mandate comes from the U.N. Human Rights Council, said the conditions for valid elections do not exist in the country, where opposition members are arrested, tortured and executed, the media is prohibited from doing its job, and it is a criminal act to criticize the military regime.
“These are not the conditions for a free and fair election, these are conditions for a fraud that is going to be attempted to be perpetrated against the people of Myanmar, and a fraud the junta hopes that the international community will buy into,” the special rapporteur warned.
He said the junta would try to spin a narrative to the population that the international community is accepting their regime, their power is inevitable, and opposition is futile.
The special rapporteur said he had sent his report to the Myanmar military rulers but has not received any response.
The military grabbed power on February 1, 2021, alleging massive election fraud in the November 2020 election, which saw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) secure 396 of the 498 contested parliament seats, while the military’s political party won only 33. The military was also guaranteed a bloc comprising 25% of the seats, enabling it to prevent any constitutional amendment.
In April 2021, the 10-member ASEAN bloc came up with a "five-point consensus" plan to end the fighting and move to dialogue. Myanmar military chief Min Aung Hlaing agreed at the time to the package of proposals but has failed to implement it.
“As a result of his actions and the junta’s actions, and I think as a result of the continuing deterioration of conditions inside of Myanmar and the impact that has on the region, you have more and more ASEAN countries speaking out,” Andrews said.
He cited Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines for criticizing the junta, reducing their diplomatic engagement with the State Administration Council and calling for a stronger stand by ASEAN on enforcing the five-point consensus.
Two years of a brutal crackdown have led to rising poverty and displacement. This year, 17.6 million people are projected to need humanitarian assistance in Myanmar.
“That is in contrast to 1 million who were in need of aid before the coup,” Andrews emphasized.
While several countries have imposed targeted sanctions on the military and its revenue sources, the special rapporteur’s call for an international arms embargo has gone unheeded.