YANGON (REUTERS) – Myanmar’s National Unity Government, set up by opponents of army rule, said on Wednesday (May 5) that it had formed a “people’s defence force” to protect its supporters from military attacks and violence instigated by the junta.
In a statement, it said the move was a precursor to establishing a Federal Union Army and that it had the responsibility to “make effective reforms in the security sector in order to terminate the 70-year-long civil war.”
In the face of widespread opposition, the junta has struggled to impose order since overthrowing elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a Feb 1 coup and ending an unsteady transition to democracy.
Violence has spiralled since the coup and security forces have killed more than 760 civilians, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) advocacy group says. The junta disputes the figure and says 24 police and soldiers have died in the protests.
“I wish to stress that Myanmar is not just witnessing another major setback to democracy, but also the crisis is threatening the regional peace and security,” said Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun, a representative of elected lawmakers who oppose Myanmar’s military junta.
Political leaders, including ousted MPs from Ms Suu Kyi’s party, have been trying to organise to show the country and the outside world that they, and not the generals, are the legitimate political authority. The unity government released a list of office holders, including members of ethnic minorities and protest leaders, underlining the unity of purpose between the pro-democracy movement and autonomy-seeking minority communities, some of whom have battled the central government for decades.
The junta said it had to seize power because its complaints of fraud in a November election won by Ms Suu Kyi’s party were not addressed by an election commission that deemed the vote fair.
Ms Suu Kyi, 75, has been detained since the coup, along with many other members of her party.