(Reuters) - Myanmar's ruling junta has officially postponed an election promised by August this year after its 2021 coup, state television reported late on Monday.
Junta leader General Min Aung Hlaing, in a meeting on Monday with the army-backed National Defence and Security Council (NDSC), extended a state of emergency by six more months.
The military had pledged to hold elections by August 2023 after it overthrew the elected government headed by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, but it cited ongoing violence as a reason to postpone the vote.
"While holding an election, in order to have an election that is free and fair and also to be able to vote without any fear, necessary security arrangements are still needed and so the period for the state of emergency is required to extend," read the junta statement on state TV.
Myanmar has been in chaos since the coup, with a resistance movement fighting the military on multiple fronts after a bloody crackdown on opponents that drew global condemnation and saw Western sanctions re-imposed.
The military seized power after complaining of fraud in a November 2020 general election won by Suu Kyi's party. Election monitoring groups found no evidence of mass fraud.
The overthrow of Suu Kyi's elected government derailed a decade of reform, international engagement and economic growth, while leaving a trail of upended lives in its wake.
In response to the junta's announcement, the U.S. State Department said extending the state of emergency would plunge the country "deeper into violence and instability".
"The regime's widespread brutality and disregard for the democratic aspirations of the people of Burma continue to prolong the crisis," said State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller.
A spokesperson for the United Nations Secretary-General said: "We want to return to democratic rule in Myanmar as soon as possible".
(Reporting by Reuters staff; Editing by Nick Macfie and Lincoln Feast.)