A human rights agency linked with Myanmar says what is happening there is not a struggle between opposing groups but a ‘crime against humanity’ being perpetrated by a military junta on the civilian population of the country who want to see a legitimate government restored there.

The ongoing struggle and uprising in Myanmar is increasingly taking on the mantle of a revolutionary struggle as protesters on the streets have formed common cause with ethnic minority groups and militias in what could soon become a protracted military struggle between a pro-democracy ‘Federal Unity’ government which this week announced that it was taking the first preliminary steps towards a new federal army to take on the oppressive Tatmadaw which has ruled Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, with an iron fist since 1962. 

The Executive Director of the Burma Human Rights Network, Kyaw Win, described what is happening in Myanmar this week not as a struggle but as a ‘crime against humanity’. (Bottom left) Protesters welcome the National Unity Government on the streets of Yangon while existing ethnic militias such as the Karen National Liberation Army combined with a new ‘people’s defence force’ could become the basis for a ‘Federal Union Army’.

On Wednesday, this body announced that it was forming an interim ‘people’s defence force’ which would lead to the eventual creation of a new ‘Federal Union Army’ which would stem from an end to the strife torn country’s civil wars since it became independent from Britain in 1948.

The country on Thailand’s western border has a population of 35 million or approximately half that of the kingdom but is composed of at least 6 ethnic minorities in addition to the Burmese majority population which represents about 68%.

Tentative democratic reforms from 2011 and a democratic government from 2015 to 2021 has given all generations the confidence to fight

The country had been ruled by the military or Tatmadaw since 1962 up to the first tentative democratic reforms in 2011 with a democratic system of governance from 2015 until this year’s overnight coup.

The period saw dramatic economic gains for the public as Myanmar began to look outwards and attracted substantial inward investment.

The February 1st coup by the military came like a hammer blow to the population’s aspiration to a better future.

The resistance to the coup, which has united generations in Myanmar, has so far surprised the international community and the leaderships of other countries in the 10 nation ASEAN community.

Crisis summit in Jakarta on April 24th

ASEAN held a historic summit meeting on April 24th in Jakarta to address the crisis in Myanmar. It produced a 5 point plan to begin a resolution process which has since lost steam due to inactivity. 

At the conference of ASEAN leaders, Thailand was represented by Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai.

New unity federal government born out of an alliance between protest groups and ethnic minorities

The unity government is believed to have been formed from elected representatives of the November 2020 General Election which was disputed by the military and used as a pretext for the coup, allied with representative groups as well the ethnic minority breakaway states who, for decades, have fought an on, off civil war with the military authorities.

The unity of purpose and vision between the young generation leading the current struggle against the military and the ethnic minorities is a new development that has surprised and impressed many long-established observers of Myanmar. 

Repressive campaign from the junta in Nay Pyi Taw

Nevertheless, the military governing the country from the isolated capital of Nay Pyi Taw, in Myanmar’s interior, continues to try to sever the country’s communications from the outside world with a recent move to outlaw the use of satellite TV receivers after the internet in most areas has been cut off or heavily restricted.

The government has also reportedly revoked the media licences for a growing list of outlets and news agencies as part of an effort to suppress reports of what appears to be a growing revolutionary struggle with mass support against what is increasingly seen as an oppressive force.

Battle-hardened troops drafted into urban centres to violently suppress protests in key cities like Yangon

The Myanmar army has also drafted in many of its battle-hardened troops from the coalface of ongoing struggles with minority ethnic groups into urban centres such as Yangon to suppress the popular struggle against it.

The result has been a blood bath.

 766 people have been killed by the military including young children since February according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a rights group that has recently been outlawed by junta authorities but which has detailed each atrocity since the coup unleashed chaos and violence within the country.

Protests evolving into a military struggle

It does appear that the resistance to the junta and street protests is evolving into a military struggle with a continuous series of explosive devices being employed against the military in recent weeks.

In the city of Bago, about 90 km or 57 miles from Yangon, on Monday, four men were killed and seriously injured when what was described as a mine attached to a phone device, exploded.

It is reported by news services, including the Global New Light of Myanmar, a newspaper supporting the junta government, that those involved were members of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy Party including a former MP.

International community should cease to recognise Myanmar’s junta say human rights activists 

A top human rights activist has called for the government of Myanmar to be excluded from the next ASEAN summit on the basis that it should no longer be recognised as the legitimate authority in the country.

Myanmar has been riven by crisis since the power grab by the army which has seen the de facto democratically elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi placed under arrest and facing charges with a rising death toll of members of the public killed by the feared security services.

Kyaw Win is the director of the Burma Human Rights Network based in London.

He has warned of more refugees emanating from the country which is increasingly on the brink of civil war and says the time has come for the international community to recognise what is happening in Myanmar as a crime.

‘This is a crime against humanity’

Rights and observer groups are also increasingly critical of Brunei, the ASEAN member state which was to be responsible for the implementation of the 5 point plan hammered out on April 24th in Indonesia.

‘This is not a dispute to do with power-sharing or power struggles, this is a crime against humanity,’ Mr Wyn said this week as the new entity calling itself the National Unity Government of Myanmar (NUG) has emerged and is gaining allegiance and support from the public claiming to be the legitimate representative of the Burmese people and a unified nation against the military.

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Further reading:

FM Don to attend Myanmar ASEAN summit with high stakes for Thailand as civil war there looms large

Myanmar facing all out revolution as the bloody struggle between the army and the public spirals out of control

Crisis in Myanmar threatens to escalate as Thai authorities monitor the situation on a daily basis

Threat to Thailand from the encroaching dragon of the North as Chinese factories in Myanmar burn

Coup boss writes to Prayut for support as UK man with Chinese partner flees troubled Myanmar

Small bomb devices explode outside the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok as anti-coup protests grow in Yangon

Australian arrested in Myanmar as coup takes on significance for US Chinese rivalry in the region

Military coup in Myanmar. Aung San Suu Kyi held with scores of leading political figures arrested by troops