YANGON – Myanmar will hold a national census in late 2024, the state media reported on Friday, hinting at another delay in elections that the junta has pledged to hold to end the crisis sparked by its coup.
The South-east Asian country has been in turmoil since the junta’s power grab in 2021, with a subsequent crackdown on dissent sparking fighting between military and anti-coup forces across swathes of the nation.
The “census will be taken simultaneously throughout the country” from Oct 1 to 15, 2024, Immigration and Population Minister Myint Kyaing was reported as saying by the Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper.
Junta chief Min Aung Hlaing had previously said a national census would be required to ensure that voting lists in the country of some 54 million were “accurate”, suggesting that a census would precede any election. He also said fresh polls could be held only when the country was “stable”.
In February, the junta announced a six-month extension to a two-year state of emergency, delaying elections it had said it would hold by August.
The military justified its February 2021 power grab with unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 election that the party of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi won in a landslide.
Observers say any fresh poll could not be free and fair under the present circumstances.
The United States maintains that any junta-held polls would be a “sham”, while Russia – a close ally and arms supplier of the military – has said it would support elections.
Two years after the coup, the situation in Myanmar is a “festering catastrophe”, United Nations human rights chief Volker Turk said last week, adding that the military was operating with “complete impunity”.
Diplomatic efforts led by the UN and the Asean regional bloc to resolve the bloody impasse have made little headway, with the military’s generals refusing to engage with opponents.
The junta in December wrapped up a series of closed-court trials of Ms Suu Kyi, jailing its long-time enemy for a total of 33 years in a process that rights groups have condemned as a sham.