The announcement came as streets were empty and shops were closed across the country in protest on the anniversary of the coup.

The state of emergency will be extended for another six months starting from February 1, the acting president said
The state of emergency will be extended for another six months starting from February 1, the acting president said (AP)

Myanmar's military authorities have announced a six-month extension to a state of emergency, likely delaying elections the junta had pledged to hold by August as they battle anti-coup fighters across the country.

On the second anniversary of the putsch, state media said the National Defence and Security Council had agreed to junta chief Min Aung Hlaing's request to prolong the state of emergency that was declared when the generals toppled Aung San Suu Kyi's government.

The "state of emergency will be extended for another six months starting from February 1", Acting President Myint Swe was quoted as saying on Wednesday. 

"Sovereign power of the state has been transferred to the commander in chief again."

The military would always be the "guardian of the interests of the state and people... under whichever government comes," Min Aung Hlaing said, according to state broadcaster MRTV. 

"Our government will work to hold elections in every part of the country so as the people will not lose their democratic right."

Extending the state of emergency also pushes back the date by which elections must be held, according to the country's constitution.

Western powers have launched a fresh broadside of sanctions against the generals.

Around 200 supporters of the military marched through Yangon's historic downtown in the early afternoon, escorted part of the way by soldiers, correspondents said.

Around 400 protesters gathered outside Myanmar's embassy in Bangkok, some chanting slogans against the military and holding portraits of Suu Kyi.

READ MORE: How is Myanmar faring two years after coup that ousted Aung San Suu Kyi?

'Not returning to normalcy yet'

The military justified its February 1, 2021, power grab with unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud in elections that democracy figurehead Suu Kyi's party won in a landslide.

The state of emergency was due to expire at the end of January and the military had been widely expected to announce on Wednesday that it would prepare for the polls.

But on Tuesday the junta-stacked National Defence and Security Council met to discuss the state of the nation and concluded it "has not returned to normalcy yet".

Junta opponents, including anti-coup "People's Defence Forces" and a shadow government dominated by lawmakers from Suu Kyi's party, had tried to seize "state power by means of unrest and violence", the military's information team said in a statement.

New round of sanctions

The United States, Canada and Britain announced a new round of sanctions on the anniversary, targeting members of the junta and junta-backed entities.

Myanmar's former colonial ruler Britain targeted, among others, companies supplying aviation fuel to the military and enabling its "barbaric air raiding campaign in an attempt to maintain power".

Australia also announced its first sanctions, aimed at 16 members of the junta "responsible for egregious human rights abuses" and two sprawling, military-controlled conglomerates.

The Southeast Asian country has been in turmoil since the army's power grab in 2021, and a subsequent crackdown on dissent has sparked fighting across swathes of the nation while tanking the economy.

More than 2,900 people have been killed in the military's crackdown on dissent since it seized power and more than 18,000 have been arrested, according to a local monitoring group.

The junta recently wrapped up a series of closed-court trials of Suu Kyi, jailing its longtime enemy for a total of 33 years in a process rights groups have slammed as a sham.

READ MORE: Myanmar elections under junta will fuel violence: UN

Source: AFP