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Myanmar opposition announces ‘defensive war’ against junta

September 08, 2021

YANGON: Myanmar’s self-declared parallel government, which was set up by pro-democracy politicians, has announced a “defensive war” against the junta, calling for civilian armed groups to target the military and its assets.

Duwa Lashi La, acting president of the National Unity Government (NUG), said the shadow government was launching a "people's defensive war", signalling in a speech what appeared to be a bid for greater coordination of armed militias and ethnic forces after months of fighting the military.

Declaring a state of emergency, Duwa Lashi La called for a "revolt against the rule of the military terrorists led by Min Aung Hlaing in every corner of the country". Military-appointed administrators should "immediately leave your positions", he added in his 14-point speech, urging members of the security forces to join pro-democracy militias and for ethnic groups in border areas to attack the military.

"We have to initiate a nationwide uprising in every village, town and city in entire country at the same time," said Duwa Lashi La. Military spokesman Zaw Min Tun dismissed the NUG's call for revolt. It was an attempt to gain international attention and recognition from the United Nations General Assembly later this month and would not succeed, he said.

Some opponents of military rule have formed armed groups, under the banner of the People's Defence Forces, and have forged alliances with some ethnic militias that have long seen Myanmar's army as their enemy.

Myanmar's military ruler Min Aung Hlaing last month took on the role of prime minister in a newly formed caretaker government and pledged to hold new elections by 2023. The junta has itself branded the NUG and People's Defence Forces as terrorist groups. Military spokesman Zaw Min Tun said the NUG was trying to destabilise the country, including disrupting a national coronavirus vaccination programme, but it was heading for failure. "They are working to bring the international attention back," said Zaw Min Tun, according to the Telegram channel of army-owned Myawaddy TV.

He also accused media groups of "spreading fake news" on the situation in Myanmar. Soon after February's coup, a civil disobedience movement tried to undermine military rule. Hastily formed militias have skirmished regularly with the army, although often appear to be operating independently.

It is also unclear how much coordination there is among ethnic forces that have been fighting the army for decades. The NUG's announcement on Tuesday appeared to prompt some panic buying.

A video on social media showed what it said was a rush to buy essentials in a supermarket in the country's business hub of Yangon. There were also reports of fighting in border areas, including between the army and soldiers of the Karen National Union (KNU), according to a post by the Karen Information Centre on social media. Anti-military street protests also broke out in the Dawei area of southern Myanmar and in Kalay in the Sagaing Region, photographs posted by the Myanmar Now news outlet showed.