The US, UK, Japan and Australia have condemned the Myanmar military junta’s decision to dissolve the party of imprisoned former leader Aung San Suu Kyi, with Washington warning that the regime’s push for elections will lead to increased instability.
State department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel told reporters that the US strongly condemned the announcement by the Myanmar military abolishing 40 political parties, including Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD).
“Any election without the participation of all stakeholders in Burma would not be and cannot be considered free or fair,” Patel said, using the former name for Myanmar.
Military-controlled media announced on Tuesday that the NLD and dozens of other political parties had been dissolved after they refused to comply with a tough new registration law.
The military, which seized power in a coup in February 2021, imposed the law and began compiling voter lists in preparation for promised elections. Analysts say any vote held under the regime would be widely considered invalid.
The NLD, the country’s most popular party, won elections by a landslide in 2020, though the military refused to accept the results. The junta seized power in February 2021, detaining Aung San Suu Kyi and others, and alleging electoral fraud – a claim rejected by independent observers.
Aung San Suu Kyi has since been sentenced to a total of 33 years in prison.
The military has deployed brutal violence to try to suppress determined opposition from the public, and much of the country is engulfed in conflict as an armed resistance seeks to overthrow the generals. Military airstrikes are now an almost daily occurrence and more than 1.38 million people have been displaced by fighting since the coup, according to the UN.
Japan’s foreign ministry said in a statement that it was “seriously concerned that the exclusion of the NLD from the political process will make it even more difficult to improve the situation”.
“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.”
The UK also condemned the dissolution of the NLD and other parties, calling it an “assault on the rights and freedoms” of the Myanmar people.
“We condemn the military regime’s politically motivated actions and their use of increasingly brutal tactics to sow fear and repress opposition,” a UK Foreign Office spokesperson said.
The Australian government said it was concerned about the “further narrowing of political space in Myanmar” resulting from the imposition of the new political party registration law.
“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,” it added.
The registration law imposed by the board sets various tough requirements for national parties. They included recruiting 100,000 members within 90 days of registration – far more than the previous requirement of 1,000 members. Parties must also open offices in at least half of all 330 townships within 180 days, contest at least half of all constituencies and hold funds of 100m kyat (£40,000).
The NLD said it did not intend to register, calling the election bodies controlled by the military “illegitimate”.