A shadow government in Myanmar seeking to reverse the February 1 coup has joined forces with a rebel group to “demolish” military rule, it said.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy government and launched a brutal crackdown on dissent.
A group of deposed lawmakers later set up a shadow “National Unity Government” which has sought to bring anti-coup dissidents together with Myanmar’s myriad ethnic rebel fighters to form a federal army to challenge the military government.
On Saturday, the rebel Chin National Front signed an agreement to “demolish the dictatorship and to implement a federal democratic system” in Myanmar, the NUG said in a statement.
They pledged “mutual recognition” and to “partner equally” the statement added, without giving further details. A CNF spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment.
The group – which represents the mainly Christian Chin minority in western Myanmar – signed a ceasefire with the country’s military, also known as Tatmadaw, in 2015.
In recent years, its fighters have dwindled.
“The CNF has no real military strength, so this move is symbolic,” Richard Horsey, senior adviser on Myanmar to the International Crisis Group, told the AFP news agency.
“But [it is] nevertheless significant as CNF has been quite prominent in the peace process, due to its well respected political leaders in exile.”
Several of Myanmar’s rebel armed groups have condemned the military coup and the use of violence against unarmed civilians.
Some are also providing shelter and even training to dissidents who flee into their territories.
New armed forces paraded
On Friday, the NUG released a video it said showed the first batch of fighters from its “People’s Defence Force”, formed to protect civilians, completing their training.
The video shows about 100 fighters marching on a muddy parade ground in the jungle. They march in new camouflage uniforms behind the flags of the new force, red with a white star. They are not shown carrying weapons.
“This military is established by the official civilian government,” an unidentified officer says at the ceremony. “The People’s Defence Force must be aligned with the people and protect the people. We will fight to win this battle.”
In this undated video, members of People Defense Force (PDF- Southern Command), an armed wing of Myanmar’s National Unity Government (NUG), take oaths at a graduation ceremony. (VIdeo: CRPH) pic.twitter.com/wCGPopIyQR
— The Irrawaddy (Eng) (@IrrawaddyNews) May 29, 2021
The military authorities say the NUG is treasonous and designated it and the People’s Defence Force as “terrorist” groups.
Coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing has justified his February 1 power grab by claiming electoral fraud in November elections won by Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD party. Independent observers dispute the assertions of widespread irregularities.
Myanmar’s security forces have killed more than 800 people since the coup, according to figures cited by the United Nations. More than 4,000 people have been detained.