Myanmar military junta blames foreign powers for backing rebel groups

Myanmar military junta blames foreign powers for backing rebel groups
  • PublishedMarch 28, 2024

Myanmar’s ruling military junta chief has blamed foreign powers for backing rebel groups in the country — something he says is ultimately delaying democratic elections.

Addressing an annual Armed Forces Day parade, General Min Aung Hlaing — who led a coup in 2021 — said his opponents were receiving foreign backing and trying to destroy the country and thwart plans to return Myanmar to democratic rule.

“The military, police force and people’s militia are working to restore peace and stability,” he told hundreds of soldiers in the capital Naypyitaw. “We need to have unity between the military and the people.”

The military has suffered a series of major losses to an alliance of ethnic minority armed groups and earlier this week admitted it may not be possible to hold elections all over the country due to the instability.

Myanmar is locked in a civil war between the military on one side and, on the other, a loose alliance of ethnic minority rebels and an armed resistance movement spawned out of the junta’s bloody crackdown on anti-coup protests.

The UN’s special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Tom Andrews, said last week that battlefield losses and problems with recruitment were posing “an existential threat for the Myanmar military”.

The situation has driven the junta to enforce a military service law, allowing it to call up all men aged 18-35 and women aged 18-27 for two years’ service.

The announcement last month, which Min Aung Hlaing on Wednesday defended as a necessity, prompted thousands of potential recruits to try to flee the country, with the Thai embassy in Yangon deluged with visa applicants.

The military has been accused by activists and some Western countries of committing systematic atrocities in its efforts to suppress the rebellion, with widespread use of air strikes and heavy artillery in civilian areas and allegations of arbitrary arrests, torture and executions.

The junta has dismissed those accusations as falsehoods.

‘Powerful nations’ to blame 

The Armed Forces Day parade commemorates the start of resistance to the Japanese occupation during World War II.

Min Aung Hlaing said on Wednesday opponents were committing violence, looting and spreading hate, and that the military was being targeted by fake news from international journalists and social media users.

Without providing evidence he said “some powerful nations” were trying to interfere with Myanmar’s internal affairs by helping armed groups fighting the military.

“They are providing aid to those organisations in various methods. They are trying to destroy and weaken the organisations protecting the interests of the people … so members of security forces need to be united,” he said.

He reiterated that the military had seized power because a 2020 election was marred by fraud, with nearly 30 per cent of ballots invalid.

The party of Aung San Suu Kyi, which won that vote in a landslide, has denied that accusation.

Aung San Suu Ky looks intensely into the camera at a conference.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s son alleged despite her ailing health she was not given health care in prison last year.(Reuters: Athit Perawongmetha/File)

Aung San Suu Kyi is in prison, sentenced to 27 years for various alleged offences.

Min Aung Hlaing said the next election, for which he provided no time frame, would be held under a mixed-member proportional representation system that would be more inclusive.

In a statement to mark Armed Forces Day, Britain’s Minister for the Indo-Pacific, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, said people were suffering “horrendous acts of violence at the military regime’s hands”.

Canada’s embassy said it “condemns in the strongest possible terms the ongoing atrocities” perpetrated by the military.

The military has repeatedly pledged to hold new elections — while also extending a state of emergency that prevents them from taking place.


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