Myanmar leader vows to ‘annihilate’ opponents of military rule | world news
By JERRY HARMER, Associated Press
BANGKOK (AP) — Myanmar’s leader vowed on Sunday to step up action against local militias fighting the military-led government, saying the armed forces would “wipe them out.”
Chief General Min Aung Hlaing, speaking at a military parade marking Armed Forces Day, also urged ethnic minorities not to support groups opposed to army rule and ruled out negotiations with them .
Last year, the military seized power from the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. Security forces used lethal force to quell mass protests nationwide, resulting in the deaths of more than 1,700 civilians, according to a detailed tally compiled by the Political Prisoners Assistance Association.
Forced to turn away from peaceful protests, many opponents of the military regime took up arms, forming hundreds of militias called the People’s Defense Forces – better known as the PDF. In some parts of the country, they have joined forces with well-organized, combat-hardened ethnic armed groups that have been fighting for greater autonomy for decades.
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Min Aung Hlaing, addressing thousands of military personnel at the annual Armed Forces Day parade in the capital Naypyitaw, said he would not negotiate with “terrorist groups and their supporters for killing innocent people” and threatened peace and security.
He said the army – known as the Tatmadaw – “will annihilate them to the end”, according to an official translation of his speech.
His government has declared the main resistance organizations – whether or not they are directly engaged in the armed struggle – as terrorist groups. Membership or even contact with them carries severe penalties under the law.
“I would like to emphasize that there are no governments or armies in the world that negotiate with terrorist groups,” he said.
Despite a huge advantage in equipment and numbers, the Myanmar army struggled to crush the new militia units. Inferior in arms and manpower, the PDF relied on the support of local communities and knowledge of the terrain to carry out often surprisingly effective attacks on convoys, patrols, guard posts, police stations and bases. isolated in remote areas.
The army is currently carrying out operations in Sagaing, in upper central Myanmar, and in Kayah state, in the east of the country, using airstrikes, artillery barrages and the burning of villages. The army appears to have recently extended its offensive to Chin State in the west and Kayin State in the southeast as well.
Last year’s Armed Forces Day was the bloodiest since the military seized power on February 1, 2021. Security forces across the country opened fire on protesters, killing up to 160 people.
Anti-military protests took place on Sunday despite the risks in Yangon, the country’s largest city, and elsewhere. To avoid arrest or injury, urban street protests usually involve flash mobs, who may flee before security forces respond.
The main opposition group, the so-called national unity government, urged people to join a ‘power strike’ on Sunday night by turning off lights and their TVs for 30 minutes while the military parade is broadcast on public television channels.
The group said the strike was also aimed at protesting the daily power cuts. The blackouts began months ago, and the government blames them for high gas prices and damage to power lines caused by sabotage.
The United States, the European Union and 20 other countries issued a statement marking Armed Forces Day remembering “those killed and displaced by violence over the past year, including at least 100 people killed in this single day a year ago”.
He called on the military to end its violence and return to democratic rule, and urged countries not to supply arms to Myanmar.
The United States, Britain and Canada on Saturday imposed the latest in a series of coordinated sanctions against senior military officials and business leaders who allegedly act as arms dealers for the Myanmar army.
The new measures targeted three senior army officers, including the new air force chief, and four suspected arms traffickers and companies linked to them. Washington also imposed sanctions on the Army’s 66th Light Infantry Division, which was accused of burning at least 30 civilians in their cars in Kayah state on Christmas Eve last year.
The new sanctions came the same week the United States announced it had determined the military’s actions in a crackdown on the Muslim Rohingya ethnic group in 2017 constituted genocide. A brutal counter-insurgency campaign forced more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee western Myanmar to Bangladesh, where virtually all of them remained.
Atrocities committed by the military against the Rohingya have been well documented by UN investigators, and the World Court is considering a charge of genocide against the Tatmadaw.
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