Myanmar regime extends military rule for the fourth time

The justice minister of the publicly mandated National Unity Government called this six-month extension a ‘blatant violation’ even of the military’s own constitution

In a meeting of Myanmar’s National Defence and Security Council (NDSC) in Naypyitaw on Monday its members decided to extend the country’s state of emergency and the term of the junta led by Min Aung Hlaing for another six months, according to an announcement broadcast by state-run media that day.

As the term expired on Monday, the junta chief submitted a report to council members reflecting on two-and-half years of military rule as is required by the army-drafted 2008 Constitution, which he used to justify his claim to power when he staged a coup on February 1, 2021. He emphasised that there was still “unrest” in the country.

The military declared a year-long state of emergency when it seized power and had since extended it three times, each for six months, with Monday’s extension marking the fourth. The military-drafted constitution allows only two six-month extensions and it requires authorities to hold elections within six months of a state of emergency being lifted.

Coup leader Min Aung Hlaing had hinted that his regime might further extend a state of emergency and delay promised elections at a meeting with his senior officials on July 14.

The NDSC body is prescribed 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, home affairs and border affairs.

After elected civilian leaders Aung San Suu Kyi and Win Myint were ousted in the coup, vice president Myint Swe became the regime’s acting president, and leads the NDSC. As with previous extensions, on Monday he announced the continuation of the country’s state of emergency for a further six months and transferred the power to military chief Min Aung Hlaing.

An official detailed statement by the NDSC would be issued later, he said.

Acting president Myint Swe is seen at the NDSC meeting on July 31 (MRTV)

Another vice president, Henry Van Thio, has not been in the public eye since the army’s seizure of power and did not attend three previous NDSC meetings, citing “health issues.”

Henry Van Thio was rumoured to be in attendance at the Monday meeting, and he was seen sitting next to Lower House speaker T Khun Myat in video footage of the event. He was previously an MP representing Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy and later appointed as a vice president by the party.

Upper House speaker Mahn Win Khaing Than became the prime minister of the shadow National Unity Government (NUG) after the 2021 coup.

Vice president Henry Van Thio (left) and Lower House speaker T Khun Myat (right) are seen at the NDSC meeting on July 31 (MRTV)

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

Responding to the extension of military rule, the NUG’s justice minister Thein Oo commented that the junta’s justification is not even in line with the military’s constitution that they cite.

“It is a blatant violation of their own constitution. They extended three times already and now is the fourth time. It shows that their constitution itself is useless,” Thein Oo told Myanmar Now.

Regarding Henry Van Thio’s attendance at the NDSC, the NUG’s justice minister said that his action does not reflect the party’s position.

“No one is above the law. Attending that meeting is a violation of law… it is illegal.”

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