Myanmar’s anti-junta unity government forms ‘defence force’

26
Yangon

Myanmar’s National Unity Government (NUG), set up by opponents of army rule, said it had formed a “people’s defence force” to protect its supporters from military attacks and violence instigated by the junta.

Since the military seized power and ousted an elected government led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi on Feb. 1, Myanmar has seen daily protests and a surge of violence with security forces killing hundreds of civilians.

The NUG said the new force was a precursor to a Federal Union Army and that it had a responsibility to end decades-old civil wars and deal with “military attacks and violence” by the ruling State Administration Council (SAC) against its people.

The unity government, established last month by an array of groups opposed to the junta, among them ethnic minority militias, has pledged to end violence, restore democracy and build a “federal democratic union”.

Among the NUG’s supporters is the Karen National Union (KNU), the country’s oldest rebel force, whose Brigade 5 on Wednesday told the Karen Information Center media group its fighters had killed 194 government troops since hostilities resumed in late March.

A spokesman for the junta did not answer a call seeking comment. The military ruled Myanmar from 1962 to 2011, before launching a tentative transition to democracy and sweeping economic reforms.

The coup halted that, angering many people unwilling to put up with another phase of military rule.

Myanmar’s well-equipped army, known as the Tatmadaw, is one of the region’s most battle-hardened forces.

Despite that, its opponents have in some places been using crude weapons to fight troops, while others have sought training with ethnic armies who have battled the military since independence in 1948 from remote border areas.—Reuters