Myanmar general insists military regime ‘will be different this time’

The leader of Myanmar’s ruling military made his first television address on Monday since the coup, saying that the regime would be different from previous military-run governments, even as large-scale protests continued to intensify.

Senior general Min Aung Hlaing said a “true and disciplined democracy” would be achieved and promised that “reformed” elections would be conducted to hand over power to the winner.

Mr Aung Hlaing stressed that Myanmar’s foreign and economic policies will remain unchanged as western nations threatened new sanctions against the southeast Asian in the wake of last week’s coup. He said that Myanmar will “maintain friendly relations with all nations”.

“There will be no change in the foreign policy, government policy and economic policy of the country during the periods we are temporarily taking state responsibility,” the general said. “We shall carry the same path as before.”

His televised address to the public came as thousands of protesters took to the streets against the 1 February military coup on the third straight day on Monday.

Police used water cannons to disperse huge crowds in Myanmar’s capital, Naypyidaw, and imposed curfew to stop gatherings of more than five people in the country’s two biggest cities, Yangon and Mandalay.

On Tuesday, demonstrators defied new rules and gathered in Yangon and Mandalay demanding the release of elected civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the restoration of her National League for Democracy (NLD) government. Water cannons were used and several protestors were held.

The military general justified the coup and refrained from threatening protesters on Monday.

He urged “the public to focus on the facts and not be carried away by emotions.”

Mr Aung Hlaing justified the takeover of power from the democratically elected government, saying it was “inevitable” and blamed the election commission for failing to investigate voting fraud in November 2019 elections.

Ms Suu Kyi of NLD party won by a landslide in the elections, a victory the military claims was achieved “unfairly”.

Ms Suu Kyi, a Nobel laureate, was detained along with President Win Myint and 133 civilian government politicians as military seized power and declared a year-long state of emergency.

Mr Aung Hlaing promised more jobs would be created and factories would be reopened in the country under the military regime. He said business projects pending under the civilian government would be approved and foreign investment would be invited to Myanmar.

His speech drew scorn from several people on social media, who banged pots and pans in front of the television, a symbolic gesture to drive away evil.

Meanwhile, New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday said the country will suspend all high-level political and military contact with Myanmar and impose a travel ban on Naypyidaw’s military leaders in response to the coup.

The US state department on Monday tried to meet Ms Suu Kyi but their request was rejected. Joe Biden’s government threatened sanctions on Myanmar and said it stands by the people of Myanmar in their right to peacefully protest.

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