Myanmar nationals and supporters hold the country's national flag and a large image of ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a rally outside of the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand, on July 26. Photo by Diego Azubel/EPA-EFE
Aug. 1 (UPI) -- Myanmar's ruling military junta will extend a state of emergency in the country for another six months, government-run media reported on Monday.
The military first declared the state of emergency in February 2021 after overthrowing the elected civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi on widely debunked charges of voter fraud.
The junta has said it will hold free and fair elections in the future, but on Monday claimed that it needed more time to stabilize the country, which has been wracked by civil unrest and chaos since the coup.
"The main reason for the instability is due to the presence of armed conflicts and the emergence of ethnic armed groups," junta leader Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing said according to a report in state-run Global New Light of Myanmar.
He announced the six-month extension at a meeting of the military's national defense and security council, which "unanimously supported the proposal," the report said.
The military originally claimed that elections would be held one year after it seized power, but later pushed the date back to 2023. However, it has jailed most of its political opponents, including Suu Kyi, the de facto leader of the civilian National League for Democracy who's been held in solitary confinement since June.
Civil disobedience and nationwide protests sprung up immediately after the coup, which the junta brutally suppressed and have since hardened into an internal conflict that some describe as a full-fledged civil war.
Myanmar's military drew widespread international condemnation last week when it announced the execution of four political activists in the country's first use of capital punishment in over three decades.
A total of 119 people have been sentenced to death under the military, according to monitoring and advocacy group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
The junta has arrested nearly 15,000 people and killed more than 2,100, the group said.