Myanmar coup leaders have labeled a national unity government --formed by ousted lawmakers and politicians -- a "terrorist" group, accusing it of masterminding a series of bombing and arson attacks in the country.
The so-called National Unity Government (NUG), set up last month by an array of groups opposed to the military junta, said this week that it would form a “people's defense force” to protect people from military attacks and violence directed by the junta.
On Saturday, the junta declared that the shadow government and the defense force would all now be covered by the anti-terrorism law.
“Their acts caused so much terrorism in many places,” the junta said in a statement. “There were bombs, fires, murder, and threats to destroy the administrative mechanism of the government,” it added.
#Myanmar's military rulers have branded a rival National Unity Government a terrorist group and blamed it for bombings, arson and killings, state-controlled media said on Saturday.#MyanmarMilitaryTerrorists https://t.co/2izLGrV2Qu— The Daily Star (@dailystarnews) May 8, 2021
Under the anti-terrorism law, any contact with the national government is also banned.
The junta has been ruling Myanmar since February 1, when it ousted the civilian government of de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a coup.
Defying the junta, people have been protesting on the streets, calling for the release of the deposed leader and other politicians and the restoration of civilian rule.
According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) advocacy group, at least 769 people have been killed in the military crackdown.
Thousands have also been arrested, including 3,677 people who have been sentenced or are in detention.
In the meantime, fighting has escalated in the border territory with ethnic groups supporting anti-coup protesters.
Many ethnic groups, who have maintained their own forces for decades, have been supporting the NUG as well.
The two most important groups — the Kachin Army (KIA) in the north and the Karen National Union (KNU) in the east — are actively engaged in combat with military forces.
Junta-controlled television said the army had advanced against the Kachin in northern Myanmar. And last month, the KNU said its forces seized an army base in Kayin state’s Mutraw district.
The Myanmar’s junta labeling of the rival National Unity Government as a "terrorist group" won't change the fact that the NUG represents the public's overwhelming desire for democracy rather than another brutal military dictatorship. https://t.co/iZvGZoccgL pic.twitter.com/hVyGq4Kaav— Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) May 9, 2021
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said last month that about 50 clashes between the military and ethnic rebels had been reported in several areas in Kachin State. Nearly 5,000 people have been displaced.
Since the coup, many people have fled to territory controlled by ethnic groups to take military training.
Observers warn that the escalation of fighting in the border region has now brought the country to the brink of a civil war.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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