THE country’s junta has labelled a shadow government of lawmakers and politicians ousted in a February coup and a people’s defence force that is being set up to confront security forces as terrorist groups.
The government of national unity was established by elected legislators who were barred from taking their seats when the military seized power and detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and others.
The junta previously accused them of treason, and the announcement on state television on Saturday said they were being branded terrorists because of their participation in a civil disobedience movement – a popular revolt against the military takeover that has seen people taking to the streets daily despite the lethal use of force by authorities.
The junta said the National Unity Government (NUG), its people’s defence force and an affiliated group known as the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH) were now classified as “terrorist organisations”.
“We ask the people not to... support terrorist actions, give aid to terrorist actions that threaten the people’s security from the CRPH, NUG and PDF, ” said the evening news broadcast.
The announcement comes as sporadic bomb blasts go off more frequently across Myanmar, especially in commercial hub Yangon – which authorities have blamed on “instigators”.
Previously, the junta had declared the CRPH and NUG as “unlawful associations”, and said interacting with them would be akin to high treason.
But their new designation as a “terrorist group” means anyone speaking to them – including journalists – can be subjected to charges under counter-terrorism laws.More than 700 protesters and bystanders have been killed by security forces since the Feb 1 coup, according to several detailed estimates.
The junta has said the death toll is about one-third of that, and that the use of lethal force was justified to end what it called rioting.
Last week, the shadow government announced the formation of the “People’s Defence Force”, which would serve as a precursor to a “Federal Union Army” of democratic forces including ethnic minorities.
The NUG has the backing of several major ethnic minority groups who for decades have been seeking greater autonomy and who maintain their own guerrilla forces.
The two most important are the Kachin in the north and the Karen in the east, both of which are actively engaged in combat with the government’s military forces.
Since the coup and crackdown on opponents, students and factory workers have fled to territory controlled by the ethnic guerrilla forces to take military training. — Agencies