Myanmar military guarantees new election; protesters block train services

Myanmar’s military on Tuesday guaranteed that it would hold an election and hand power to the winner, denying that its ouster of an elected government was a coup and denouncing protesters for inciting violence and intimidating civil servants.
The military’s justification of its Feb. 1 seizure of power and arrest of government leader Aung San Suu Kyi and others came as protesters again took to the streets and after a UN envoy warned the army of “severe consequences” for any harsh response to the demonstrations.

“Our objective is to hold an election and hand power to the winning party,” Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun, spokesman for the ruling council, told the military’s first news conference since it seized power.

The military has not given a date for a new election but it has imposed a state of emergency for one year. Zaw Min Tun said the military would not hold power for long.

“We guarantee … that the election will be held,” he told the news conference which the military broadcast live over Facebook, a platform the military has banned.

Asked about the detention of Nobel prize winner Suu Kyi and the president, he said the military would abide by the constitution.

Despite the deployment of armoured vehicles and soldiers in some major cities on the weekend, protesters have kept up their campaign to oppose military rule demand Suu Kyi’s release.

As well as the demonstrations in towns and cities across the ethnically diverse country, a civil disobedience movement has brought strikes that are crippling many functions of government.
Protesters blocked train services between Yangon and the southern city of Mawlamyine, milling on to a sun-baked stretch of railway track waving placards in support of the disobedience movement, live images broadcast by media showed.

“Release our leaders immediately,” and “People’s power, give it back,” the crowd chanted.

Crowds also gathered in two places in the main city of Yangon - at a traditional protest site near the main university campus and at the central bank, where protesters hoped to press staff to join the civil disobedience movement.

About 30 Buddhist monks protested against the coup with prayers in Yangon, while hundreds of protesters marched through the west coast town of Thandwe.

‘WORLD IS WATCHING’

The unrest has revived memories of bloody outbreaks of opposition to almost half a century of direct army rule that ended in 2011 when the military began a process of withdrawing from civilian politics.

But violence has been limited this time though police have opened fire several times, mostly with rubber bullets, to disperse protesters.

One woman who was shot in the head in the capital Naypyitaw last week is not expected to survive. Zaw Min Tun said one policeman had died of injuries sustained in a protest.

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