On Wednesday Mar 31st, Myanmar’s military government announced it is implementing a unilateral one-month ceasefire. However, the ceasefire has an exception. It will not cover actions that disrupt the government’s security and administrative operations. This exception clearly refers to the mass movement holding daily nationwide protests against the military’s power seize in February.
Fresh rounds of combat between the Burmese military with at least two of the ethnic minority guerrilla organizations led to this announcement. The guerrilla organizations maintain a strong presence in their respective areas along the country’s borders.
For decades, over a dozen ethnic minority groups have sought greater autonomy from the central government. Sometimes the minority groups fight through armed struggles. The military coup has strained relations further. Ceasefires have been fragile even in peaceful times.
Civil disobedience movement
The elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi was ousted by the Feb 1st coup. There is an active movement against the coup. The movement is attempting to use civil disobedience in their fight to regain a democratic government. It is aiming to bring the military government operations down to a standstill. The plan is to gain support from employers in the public and private sectors, by calling them to stop any work in support of government machinery.
To increase pressure on the junta, the group is also seeking alliances with the ethnic minority armed groups. The movement plans to work together with the ethnic minority groups to form a federal army to oppose the current military government.
At least 536 killed in clashes
Police and soldiers continue to clash with the largely peaceful demonstrators in the cities and towns of Myanmar. Both police and soldiers freely use war weapons and live ammunition on protesters during clashes. According to Myanmar’s Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, at least 536 protesters and bystanders have been killed since the Feb 1st coup. The actual toll is likely to be much higher. The figures from Myanmar’s Assistance Association for Political Prisoners come from documented cases only.
There was no immediate response from leaders of the ethnic minority forces on the military government’s ceasefire announcement. Several of the major groups have publicly denounced the coup. These groups said they will defend protesters in the territory they control. They consist of the Kachin in the north, the Karen in the east and the Rakhines’ Arakan Army in western Myanmar.
Ethnic minority forces launched a series of attacks on the military since the start of the coup. The Kachin says the latest round of fighting was triggered by military assaults on four Kachin outposts. The military retaliated with a helicopter attack on a Kachin base, after a recent Kachin assault in mid-March.
Local news outlets The 74 Media and Bhamo Platform reported an attack by the Kachin Independence Army on a Shwegu police station, a township in Kachin on Wednesday. The Kachin Independence Army is the armed wing of the Kachin Independence Organization. The attackers wounded a police officer and seized weapons and supplies according to the news reports.
There was an earlier conflict in eastern Myanmar before Wednesday’s Kachin attack. Karen guerrillas seized an army outpost on Saturday. Established humanitarian group, Free Burma Rangers, provides medical assistance to the area’s villagers. The humanitarian group said the Burmese military followed with airstrikes from Saturday through Wednesday. The airstrikes have killed at least 13 villagers to date. They have also driven thousands of Burmese to flee across the border into Thailand.
The military pulls back
The Karen National Union is the main political body representing the Karen minority. It issued a statement from one of its armed units saying Myanmar military “ground troops are advancing into our territories from all fronts” after the airstrikes. Due to the military’s aggressiveness, the Karen National Union may have to respond equally.
In eastern Myanmar, the conflict has spread to neighboring Thailand. An estimated 3,000 Karen people crossed the border to seek temporary shelter. However, most of the Karen people returned across the border voluntarily. They were not forced back by Thai authorities, according to Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. On Wednesday, Thai authorities said that only about 200 Karen people remained in the country. They, too, are preparing to return to Myanmar.
1st April 2021 23:00
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