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Several areas of Myanmar placed under martial law

Martial law has been declared in several areas across Myanmar.

Martial law has been declared in several areas across Myanmar. Photo: AAP

Martial law has been declared in several areas of military-run Myanmar, a day after authorities extended a state of emergency throughout the country wracked by violence that some experts have described as a civil war.

State-run MRTV television broadcast an announcement on Thursday by Aung Lin Dwe, secretary of the military’s State Administration Council, imposing martial law in 37 townships across eight of the country’s 14 regions and states.

Eleven of the townships are in Sagaing region and seven in Chin state, areas in the northwest where fighting has been fiercest between the army and guerrillas belonging to pro-democracy People’s Defence Forces and their allies in ethnic minority militias.

The army has been struggling to contain a nationwide insurrection by opponents of military rule who took up arms after peaceful protests against the army’s February 1, 2021, seizure of power were suppressed with lethal force.

The military has declared martial law before, most notably in early 2021 in Yangon, the country’s biggest city, after which violence escalated against protesters. According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, an independent watchdog group that tracks killings and arrests, at least 2948 civilians have been killed since the army takeover.

Aung Lin Dwe said in a statement that it was necessary to declare martial law to effectively carry out security and the rule of law. Martial law supersedes all other laws, giving the military total authority over a specified area, including administrative, judicial and law enforcement functions.

A spokesman for the opposition’s underground National Unity Government, which acts as a shadow government opposed to army rule, told The Associated Press that he believes the military will increase killings and torture of people under the pretext of stabilising the country.

“We want to inform the soldiers and policemen who are protecting the junta not to continue fighting the unwinnable war, that the people are fighting them back,” Nay Phone said.

A separate statement from the military said all administrative and judicial work in the specified areas must be led by regional military commanders, who can initiate military tribunals for 23 offences with punishments including the death penalty and indefinite imprisonment.

While no appeals will be allowed, submissions for a revision of the punishment can be filed within 15 days. The offences that can be heard by military tribunals include those under the Counter-Terrorism Law, sedition, treason, incitement, corruption, unlawful association, murder, rape, media law, publishing law, immigration and electronic transactions charges.

On Wednesday, the military government announced it has extended the state of emergency it imposed when it seized power two years ago, a move that sets back plans for a general election that had been expected in August. It said it was necessary to extend the emergency for six months because the country remains in an abnormal situation and time is needed to prepare for a peaceful and stable election.

A major reshuffle of the Cabinet and the military’s State Administration Council was also announced on Wednesday.

– AAP

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