Myanmar’s anti-coup forces say they are moving closer to victory over the generals who seized power in a coup three years ago, energised by the successes of a major offensive that began at the end of October.
Speaking from an undisclosed location inside Myanmar at an online forum, NUG Acting President Duwa Lashi La said anti-coup forces had made “stunning gains” since the start of Operation 1027, which was launched late last year by an alliance of ethnic armed groups and resistance fighters.
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“After three years, the Spring Revolution is stronger than ever,” Duwa Lashi La said on Tuesday. “With each passing day, we are edging closer to victory. The criminal military will never crush the will of the people.”
The NUG includes elected politicians who were removed in the February 2021 coup and established the so-called Peoples’ Defence Force (PDF) of civilians, after the military responded with brutal force against peaceful protests against its power grab.
Duwa Lashi La added that the military was facing an increasing rate of desertion that was a “deep humiliation for the junta”.
As anti-coup forces advance in multiple areas of the country taking control of military outposts and several towns, the generals are facing their biggest challenge since they overthrew the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi triggering a mass opposition movement.
The military has claimed those fighting against them are “terrorists”, while reports of military abuses, losses and desertions are “fake news” designed to “discredit” the military.
At least 4,468 civilians have been killed since the coup and nearly 20,000 people are being held in detention on political grounds, according to the local monitoring group the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
The United Nations and human rights groups have accused the generals of serious human rights abuses, including crimes against humanity in their crackdown on the opposition.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk said the country’s human rights crisis was now in “free fall” with the military “routinely” targeting civilians, medical facilities and schools. The world, he added, was paying “insufficient attention” to the situation.
“Amid all of the crises around the world, it is important no one is forgotten,” Turk said in a statement on Tuesday. “The people of Myanmar have been suffering for too long. As the military has suffered setback after setback on the battlefield, they have lashed out, launching waves of indiscriminate aerial bombardments and artillery strikes.”
Entire villagers have been burned to the ground and attacks from the air, where the military has overwhelming superiority, have intensified.
‘Where dictatorship ends’
On Wednesday, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch were among those calling on the international community to take additional steps to end the military’s access to jet fuel.
“Concerned governments should be doing more to curb the junta’s capacity to commit appalling laws of war violations,” Elaine Pearson, the Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. “United Nations member countries should urge the UN Security Council to impose an arms embargo on Myanmar including sanctions on jet fuel that facilitates unlawful air attacks on civilians.”
Amnesty said an analysis of shipping satellite, trade and customs data from 2023 suggested there had been “significant changes” in the way in which aviation fuel was entering Myanmar over the past year after the European Union, United Kingdom, United States and others implemented sanctions.
The military was engaged in multiple sales and using intermediaries as well as storage units, including in Vietnam, to obscure the fuel’s origin and destination, it added.
“After the international community took action on this deadly supply chain, the Myanmar military is ripping a page out of the sanctions evasion playbook to continue importing jet fuel,” Montse Ferrer, Amnesty’s deputy regional director for research, said in a statement.
“Air strikes have killed or injured hundreds of civilians across Myanmar in 2023, and left many feeling nowhere is safe. The best way to stop the Myanmar military from carrying out lethal air strikes is to stop all jet fuel imports into the country.”
Calls are also growing for the international community to make more effort to hold the military leadership accountable for its abuses.
“Since the February 1, 2021 coup, the junta military has been killing unarmed civilians, razing down villages, destroying religious structures, and arresting activists, journalists, and politicians with impunity. After Operation 1027, it has continued targeting and killing innocent civilians and displacing whole communities across Myanmar,” John Quinley III, the director at Fortify Rights, said in a statement urging the international community to take “concrete action” to hold the generals to account.
Quinley said member states of the International Criminal Court (ICC) should request the court to investigate the military’s alleged crimes in Myanmar. Although the country is not part of the ICC, the NUG lodged a declaration with the court in 2021 accepting its jurisdiction.
“Without adequate intervention by the international community, the well-oiled killing machine that is the Myanmar junta will continue unabated,” he said.
The NUG’s Duwa Lashi La also called for accountability as well as for governments to recognise the NUG.
Any attempt at negotiations by the military should also be treated with caution, he added.
“The military has no place in our politics,” said Duwa Lashi La. “It must be made permanently subservient to a civilian government. Now is where the dictatorship ends.”