A prominent rebel group in eastern Myanmar on Sunday called on other ethnic armies to unite against the army, as the country enters its fourth month under junta rule.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the dismissal of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a February 1 coup, sparking a mass uprising across the country.
As security forces have used deadly violence against civilians to quell a persistent anti-junta movement, some of Myanmar’s myriad ethnic armies have spoken out against the military.
One of the most prominent opponents is the Karen National Union (KNU), which has admitted to offering shelter to fleeing dissidents in the territory they control along Myanmar’s eastern border.
Clashes have intensified in Karen State between KNU fighters and the military.
Last week, rebels attacked and razed a military base. The junta retaliated with airstrikes and rocket launchers targeting rebel-held territory.
On Sunday – after five days of air raids – the Deputy Chief of Staff of the armed wing of the KNU wrote an open letter calling on all ethnic Karen fighters to unite, regardless of their loyalty.
“Never has there been such an opportunity in the more than 70 years of revolution. Take advantage and fight the Burmese military dictatorship, ”said Lieutenant General Baw Kyaw Heh.
“In our generation, let us stand united … to escape the military dictatorship.”
His letter was addressed to two other rebel groups in the Karen State – the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army and the KNU / KNLA Peace Council.
Mr. Baw Kyaw Heh also called for unity among ethnic Karen fighters in the Border Guard Forces (BGF) – a subdivision of the Burmese army made up of former ethnic insurgents.
“So BGF, being Karen, you have to think it over carefully and make the right decision,” he said. “The Karens should not kill each other.”
Myanmar has more than 20 rebel ethnic groups, many of whom hold territory in the border regions of the country.
Meanwhile, thousands of anti-coup protesters marched in Myanmar on Sunday, calling for a “spring revolution” with the country in its fourth month under military rule.
The protests began early in the Yangon Mall as activists called for a show of force and a “spring revolution.”
Bomb explosions also erupted in different parts of Yangon on Sunday. Explosions are occurring more and more frequently in the former capital, and the authorities have blamed them on the “instigators”.
Young people gathered on a street corner before quickly marching through the streets in a flash mob – dispersing soon after to avoid clashing with authorities.
“Bringing down the military dictatorship is our cause!” they chanted, saluting the three-fingered resistance.
The violence continues
Violence erupted again at 10 a.m. on Sunday in Hsipaw County, Shan state, when security forces opened fire on protesters, killing at least one.
“He was shot in the head and died immediately,” said one protester, who said he rushed to hide his friend’s body in case the authorities tried to take it away from him.
In northern Kachin state, security forces also fired at protesters, even throwing grenades into crowds.
A 33-year-old man was shot in the head, another protester told AFP, adding that many others were injured in the attack.