Myanmar’s National Unity Government (NUG), set up by opponents of army rule, says it has 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 February 1, Myanmar has registered 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 Centre 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.
A young activist in Mandalay on Wednesday told Reuters he was planning to join the federal army to “help fight against the Tatmadaw” and that networks of activists had mobilised to train in the jungles.
There have been reports of some of those being arrested and imprisoned by the military, including on April 30 in Kayah state in eastern Myanmar, a family member of one of those detained told Reuters on Wednesday.
Small blasts have been recorded in cities and towns in recent weeks, some targeting government offices and military facilities.
There have been no claims of responsibility but the military has blamed people bent on destabilising the country.
State media on Wednesday said five people killed in an explosion this week, including a former lawmaker for Suu Kyi’s party, had been building a bomb, and wire, batteries and a damaged phone were found at the scene.
Dr Sasa, a spokesman for the NUG, on Wednesday said the explosion in the Bago region was the work of the military leadership, who would face justice in international courts.
“The killings and crimes against humanity were well-planned and well-co-ordinated by the highest level of the military generals in Myanmar,” he told Reuters.
“The SAC determination is clear and loud, they want to kill the people of Myanmar as many as possible and destroy the country of Myanmar as much as possible.”