Junta orders Myanmar civilians to prepare for emergencies
Public servants and former soldiers told to form units amid ‘heavy assaults’ from insurgents
Myanmar’s military rulers have ordered all government staff and those with military experience to prepare to serve in case of emergency, an official said on Thursday, after the junta reported “heavy assaults” from insurgents in several places.
Myanmar’s military has battled ethnic minority and other insurgencies for decades but a 2021 coup brought unprecedented co-ordination between anti-military forces, which are mounting the biggest challenge to the army in years.
The junta had orders for all government staff and former military personnel to form units to respond to emergency situations, said Tin Maung Swe, secretary of an administrative council in the capital, Naypyitaw. “If necessary, such a unit might be required to go out and serve for natural disasters and security,” the junta’s council said in an order.
Tin Maung Swe confirmed the order while stressing that the situation in the capital, in central Myanmar, is calm. “This is the plan to help in the event of an emergency,” he told Reuters.
A parallel government formed by pro-democracy politicians to oppose the military, and allied with some insurgent factions, has launched a “Road to Naypyitaw” campaign, which it says is aimed at taking control of the capital.
Junta spokesperson Zaw Min Tun said late on Wednesday the military faces “heavy assaults from a significant number of armed rebel soldiers” in Shan State in the northeast, Kayah State in the east and Rakhine State in the west.
Zaw Min Tun said some military positions have been evacuated and the insurgents have been using drones to drop hundreds of bombs on military posts. “We are urgently taking measures to protect against drone bomb attacks effectively.”
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the 2021 coup, when the military ousted a government led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, ending a decade of tentative democratic reform.
The military ruled Myanmar with an iron fist for 50 years after seizing power in 1962, insisting it was the only institution capable of holding the diverse country together. The 2021 coup dashed hopes for reform and triggered a groundswell of opposition that has united pro-democracy activists in towns and cities, with ethnic minority forces fighting for self-determination in hinterlands.
Clashes have sent refugees into all of Myanmar’s neighbours, including thousands who fled into India in recent days from fighting in Chin State in the northwest.
Western governments have reimposed sanctions on the Myanmar junta in response to the coup and crackdowns on protests and demanded the release of Suu Kyi and other pro-democracy politicians and activists.
Myanmar’s Southeast Asian neighbours have tried to encourage a peace process but the generals have largely ignored their efforts.
UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres is deeply concerned by the “expansion of conflict in Myanmar” and has called for all parties to protect civilians, a spokesperson said. “The number of displaced people in Myanmar now exceeds 2-million,” the spokesperson said.
The Arakan Army, a rebel group fighting for autonomy in Rakhine, said on Wednesday that dozens of police and military men have surrendered or been captured as its forces advance.
The junta spokesperson denounced the group, saying it is “destroying” Rakhine.
Separately, a video posted on social media by anti-military forces in Kayah and verified by Reuters shows wounded junta troops surrendering to insurgents, who are seen offering medical help.
“We are ready to shoot you right now but we won’t do that. You raise the white flag and walk out, nothing will happen to you,” a fighter who identified himself as the vice commander-in-chief of the rebel Karenni National Defence Force is heard telling the junta soldiers.
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