The participation of the Myanmar junta has been canceled at the ASEAN tourism meeting

The junta chief said the country was not yet ready to hold general elections with an “accurate” electoral roll and “free” voters, as almost half of Myanmar’s more than 300 settlements lack security and stability.

“We have to hold general elections in all states and regions at the same time, and we cannot do it in one place after another,” Min Aung Hlaing said. “It’s not enough to [hold it] only in urban areas,” he added.

He also stressed that Myanmar’s electoral system should be changed to proportional representation, which would make it easier for less popular junta-linked parties to win seats. Elections in Myanmar are currently held on a First Past the Post system, meaning that the candidate who wins the most votes in each constituency becomes the MP, while any votes that went to the losing candidates are effectively thrown away .

He added that the country’s political parties would also need to be changed in line with the change in the electoral system, hinting that the parties may need to merge to better represent the people.

Days before the NSSC meeting, the regime amended the Political Parties Registration Act, aiming to ban the NLD. In Wednesday’s state newspapers, the junta’s election commission also published bylaws of the Political Party Registration Act and called on interested parties to begin their registration process.

At the meeting, the military chief also touched on the need to collect up-to-date data on the country’s population. He noted that the last population census in Myanmar was conducted in 2014 and that it should be conducted every 10 years. Min Aung Hlaing stressed that an updated count would be crucial to obtain an accurate electoral roll before the election. However, the military chief did not provide a timetable for the elections.

“Our government will do everything possible to be able to hold elections in a number of constituencies no less than the previous elections in 2020 and also under peaceful conditions – no [those that are] worse [than in 2020]Min Aung Hlaing said, referring to his junta.

The 11-member NDSC body is mandated by the military-drafted constitution to include the president, two vice-presidents, two house speakers, the commander-in-chief and his deputy and the ministers of foreign affairs, defence, interior and border affairs.

Not all members attended Tuesday’s meeting. In attendance were regime incumbent President Myint Swe, Lower House Speaker T Khun Myat, Deputy Commander-in-Chief Soe Win, Defense Minister Gen Mya Tun Oo, Home Affairs Minister Gen-Lt Soe Htut, Foreign Affairs Minister Wunna Maung Lwin and Minister of border affairs Lt. Gen. Tun Tun Naung.

Also attending were regime officials who were selectively invited, such as the Secretary of the Military Council, Lt. Gen. Aung Lin Dwe, along with his Joint Secretary, Lt. Gen. Yeh Win Oo, and Attorney General Thida Oo.

T Khun Myat suggested that the council body seek recommendations from the constitutional tribunal on whether the new extension is in line with the 2008 charter. According to the broadcast, the tribunal has considered the move and told the regime’s vice president that the extension is in line with the constitution. Myint Swe, who heads the NDSC, then announced an extension of the country’s state of emergency for another six months.

Although the NDSC council holds some executive powers of the state, its structure gave a majority to members controlled by the military, even when Myanmar was under a civilian government.

Responding to the extension of the regime’s military rule, Aung Chee Nyunt, who is a central executive member of the ousted NLD party, said the move was “illegal”.

“The state of emergency will only end when they are gone.” [in power]” he told Myanmar Now by phone on Wednesday, referring to the military. “They created this state of emergency. Even if they extend [the junta’s rule]it is lawlessness.”

According to the 2008 Constitution, only the President can transfer the sovereign power of the state to the Commander-in-Chief in an “emergency”.

Although the military arrested and charged NLD President Win Myint when they staged the coup two years ago, they did not depose Vice Presidents Henry Van Thio and Myint Swe; the latter is currently the acting president of the regime. However, Van Tio has been out of the public eye since the military took over.

While both remain members of the NDSC, Van Tio did not attend Tuesday’s meeting due to health reasons, according to the regime. Myanmar Now sources in Naypyitaw said he was hospitalized on Tuesday with head and neck injuries.

Tuesday marked his third absence from such meetings since the coup. He did not attend the previous NDSC meetings on January 31 and July 31 last year when the council extended the rule of the junta. In both cases, Van Tio’s health was cited as the reason for his absence.

On the second anniversary of the country’s military coup, residents of Myanmar’s cities protested junta rule with a “silent strike” by avoiding public activities. Myanmar citizens in neighboring countries such as Thailand held rallies and called for an end to the military’s power grab, which they condemned as “illegal”.

A night earlier, the US, Australia and allied Western governments announced an expansion of sanctions against the junta, the regime’s energy officials and its network of suppliers and cronies.

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