Myanmar’s junta leader attends military conference in Moscow

MOSCOW (AP) — The leader of Myanmar’s military junta on Wednesday attended an international conference in Moscow, an appearance that reflected Russia’s eagerness to develop ties with the junta despite international criticism.

The military in Myanmar ousted the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi on Feb. 1, claiming her party’s landslide victory in an election last November was due to massive voter fraud. It has not produced credible evidence to back its claim.

Myanmar’s security forces have brutally suppressed widespread popular protests against the military takeover, killing hundreds of protesters and carrying out waves of arrests.

The junta’s leader, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, claimed in Wednesday’s speech that it was trying to consolidate a democratic system in the country that has “degraded.”

“Currently, Myanmar is striving for political stability,” he said at the conference organized by Russia’s Defense Ministry. “The previous government mocked democracy by rigging the election. Due to the dishonesty of the NLD government, our current government has taken steps to restore integrity to democracy.”

He rejected international criticism, charging that “some countries are constantly trying to influence other political systems and ideologies in a variety of ways” and adding that “they also want to interfere in the internal affairs of sovereign states on the pretext of democracy and human rights.”

On Tuesday, Min Aung Hlaing met with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who hailed the strong military cooperation between the countries.

“We pay special attention to this meeting as we see Myanmar as a time-tested strategic partner and a reliable ally in Southeast Asia and the Asia-Pacific region,” Shoigu said.

He added that “cooperation in the military and military-technical field is an important part of relations between Russia and Myanmar” and praised Min Aung Hlaing for strengthening the country’s military.

Shoigu said Russia would work to expand ties with Myanmar based on “mutual understanding, respect and trust.”

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