Australia, Japan, the UK and the US have expressed concern over the disbanding of the Burmese military the country’s former ruling partywarning that the move could deepen instability in the violence-torn country.
Wednesday’s statements of concern came a day after Myanmar’s military dissolved Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) and 39 other parties over their failure to meet a deadline for register for an election that should extend the military’s grip on power.
No date has been set for the election.
The NLD has repeatedly ruled out running for the ballot, calling it illegitimate.
“We seriously fear that the exclusion of the NLD from the political process will make it even more difficult to improve the situation,” the Japanese foreign ministry said in a statement.
“Japan strongly urges Myanmar to immediately release NLD officials, including Suu Kyi, and lead the way towards a peaceful resolution of the matter in a manner that is inclusive of all parties involved.”
A Myanmar military spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment. The head of the military regime, General-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing, on Monday urged international critics support its efforts to restore democracy.
Myanmar has been in unrest since the military coup who deposed the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021, upending a decade of provisional democracy.
Myanmar security forces have killed more than 3,000 people in a bloody crackdown on peaceful protesters, sparking a armed struggle against the military regime. More than a million people have been displaced by the fighting, according to the United Nations.
Aung San Suu Kyi, 77, who the military arrested in the coup, is serving a 33-year prison sentence after being found guilty of various charges and dozens of her NLD allies are also in jail or fled.
“Attack on freedoms”
US State Department deputy spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters that Washington “strongly condemns” the decision to abolish 40 political parties.
“Any election without the participation of all stakeholders in Burma would not and cannot be considered free or fair,” Patel said, using the Southeast Asian nation’s former name.
The British Foreign Office criticized the dissolution of the NLD and other parties as an “attack on the rights and freedoms” of the people of Myanmar.
“We condemn the politically motivated actions of the military regime and their use of increasingly brutal tactics to sow fear and suppress opposition,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman said.
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was seriously concerned about a further shrinking of political space in Myanmar due to strict voter registration requirements. He said all stakeholders should be allowed to participate in the political process and warned that their exclusion could lead to further violence and instability.
“We will continue to closely monitor the actions of the regime and call for the restoration of democracy, including credible elections,” he said in a statement.
The disbanding of the NLD comes as the military prepares the ground for a future election, including updating voter rolls. Teams collecting civilian data for voter rolls have already come under attack from resistance forces, who loosely pledge allegiance to a parallel government set up by ousted NLD lawmakers known as the Government of national unity.
More than a dozen individuals from these teams were killed, according to the Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think tank.
Given widespread opposition to the election, the Crisis Group warned on Tuesday that the planned elections, which could take place by November, will likely be “the bloodiest in the country’s recent history”.
“The majority of the population fiercely opposes the ballot box to legitimize political control of the military, so we will see violence increase if the regime seeks to force a vote, and resistance groups seek to disrupt them,” he said. Richard Horsey, a senior official. Myanmar advisor at Crisis Group.
“To prevent this escalation, Western and regional actors must send a concerted message that the polls are illegitimate and withhold electoral support; while the parallel national unity government should unambiguously oppose resistance attacks on electoral targets.