Myanmar: Ousted Government Declares War on Military Junta, Issues State of Emergency

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YANGON, MYANMAR - MARCH 28: Anti-coup protesters use slingshots and pelt stones towards approaching security forces on March 28, 2021 in Yangon, Myanmar. (Image: Stringer/Getty Images)

Myanmar’s ousted authorities, the National Unity Government (NUG) declared war on the Tatmadaw, the country’s ruling military junta on Tuesday, Sept. 7, while also declaring a nationwide state of emergency.

The NUG has called for open rebellion against the junta rule, prompting attacks on military targets by various pro-democracy militias and ethnic armed groups, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported. 

Via a video address on social media the NUG interim president, Duwa Lashi La, asserted that the Tatmadaw illegally seized control of the country by force through a coup d’état on Feb. 1 this year.  

In a 14-point address, the NUG interim president said peaceful resistance had failed to convince the ruling junta to hand back power to the democratically elected National League of Democracy (NLD) government, and that “The people’s resistance against the military dictatorship starts today, Sept. 7.”

“This revolution is a people’s revolution, and the entire population of the Union of Myanmar must resist Min Aung Hlaing’s brutal military,” Duwa Lashi La added.

The NUG leader called on branches of the People’s Defense Force (PDF) militias to “target the military and their support pillars to take control of their regions,” while also directing “all levels of local administrators to stop working immediately.”

The calls to war were coupled with direction to the public to avoid unnecessary travel and to begin storing adequate amounts of food and medicine to aid PDF units. 

The declaration of war follows the Aug. 28 announcement of an alliance between a dozen PDF militia factions. 

The 12 militia factions are branches of the People’s Defense Force (PDF) which are primarily based in Myanmar’s Sagaing region and Chin state but also hail from areas located in the Mandalay and Magway regions as well as Kachin.

In the 7 months following the junta’s rise to power security forces have killed 1,051 civilians and have arrested at least 6,313, according to the Bangkok-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).

The Tatmadaw says it had no choice but to unseat Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD government after claiming the November 2020 election had been stolen through widespread voter fraud. 

No evidence of election irregularities have been presented by the ruling junta.

Washington reacts

A U.S. State Department spokesman acknowledged the launch of a “people’s defensive war” against the ruling junta while calling for peace in the region to allow for the delivery of aid and medicine. 

Using the country’s former name, the spokesman said, “The United States does not condone violence as a solution to the current crisis in Burma and calls on all sides to remain peaceful,” adding that “the worsening COVID-19 situation inside Burma underscores the need for a peaceful environment that allows for equitable, safe, and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance.”

The U.S. embassy in Burma (Myanmar), on Sept. 7, issued a level 4 Travel Advisory — the highest level issued by the Department of State — directing U.S. citizens not to travel to Myanmar or to leave as soon as it is safe to do so “due to the greater likelihood of life-threatening risks.”

The Travel Advisory states that “roadblocks and military operations could become more prevalent in Yangon and throughout the country.  The Embassy advises Americans to avoid public gatherings and limit their outside activities.”

U.S. citizens currently in Myanmar are also advised to prepare provisions in order to shelter in place if necessary amidst reports of panic-buying by local citizens.