Australia condemns Myanmar junta disbanding Aung San Suu Kyi’s party

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Key Points
  • Myanmar’s military junta has disbanded 40 political parties ahead of its election.
  • That includes the party of Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been imprisoned following the 2021 military coup.
  • Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Japan have criticised Myanmar over threatening democracy.
Australia has expressed its concern over the dissolution of Myanmar’s former ruling party and urged the military government to pursue a more inclusive process to return the country to democracy.
Myanmar’s ruling junta on Tuesday disbanded Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) and 39 other parties over their failure to meet a deadline to register for an election that is set to extend the army’s grip on power.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since a military coup in early 2021 that upended a decade of tentative democracy, with a bloody crackdown on protests giving rise to an armed struggle against the junta. More than a million people have been displaced by fighting, according to the United Nations.
Myanmar’s ousted leader , 77, is serving 33 years in prison for various offences and dozens of her NLD allies are also in jail or have fled. The NLD had repeatedly ruled out running in the election, for which no date has been set, calling it illegitimate.
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was seriously concerned about a further narrowing of political space in Myanmar due to tough election registration requirements.
It said all stakeholders should be allowed to take part in the political process and warned their exclusion could lead to further violence and instability.
“The people of Myanmar continue to show their courage and commitment to a democratic country in the face of increasing repression and violence by the regime,” the department said in a statement.
“We will continue to closely monitor the regime’s actions, and call for the restoration of democracy including credible elections.”

A spokesperson for Myanmar’s military could not immediately be reached for comment. Its leader Min Aung Hlaing on Monday urged international critics to get behind his efforts to restore democracy.

Myanmar’s chief senior general Min Aung Hlaing. Source: Getty / Ye Aung Thu

US State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel told reporters that the United States “strongly condemns” the decision to abolish 40 political parties.

“Any election without the participation of all stakeholders in Burma (Myanmar) would not be and can not be considered free or fair,” Mr Patel said.
Britain’s foreign office also criticised the dissolution of the NLD and other parties as an “assault on the rights and freedoms” of the Myanmar people.
And Japan’s foreign ministry said the exclusion of NLD will only make it “even more difficult to improve the situation” in Myanmar.

“Japan strongly urges Myanmar to immediately release NLD officials, including Suu Kyi, and to show a path toward a peaceful resolution of the issue in a manner that includes all parties concerned,” it said in a statement.

The election is supposed to return Myanmar to the quasi-civilian democratic system that experts say the military can control with the NLD out of the picture.
The polls, for which no date has been announced, will come amid a deepening crisis in Myanmar, where the military is fighting on multiple fronts to crush ethnic minority armies and a resistance movement formed to counter its lethal suppression of anti-coup dissent.
In a live broadcast late on Tuesday, state-run Myawaddy TV said 63 parties had registered at a local or national level, but it named 40 parties that were automatically disbanded for failure to sign up by Tuesday’s deadline.
Tun Myint, a senior NLD official, said the party would never have registered for the polls, with many of its members in jail or “involved in the revolution”.
“It doesn’t matter whether they say our party is dissolved or not. We are standing with the support of people,” Tun Myint told Reuters.

The shadow National Unity Government, which the junta has declared “terrorists”, said the military had no authority to hold what would be a sham election.

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