Myanmar military to hold annual armed forces day

NAYPYIDAW: Myanmar's junta holds its annual Armed Forces Day parade on Wednesday (March 27) in a show of force as it struggles to contain a growing armed resistance that has captured broad swathes of territory.

The military has suffered a series of major losses to an alliance of ethnic minority armed groups, and this week junta chief Min Aung Hlaing admitted it may not be possible to hold elections all over the country because of the instability.

Three years after seizing power in a coup, the junta is now facing an "existential threat", according to a UN expert, with casualties and defections taking a toll.

Wednesday will see a show of defiance as the military rolls out troops and hardware for the Armed Forces Day parade, commemorating the start of resistance to the Japanese occupation during World War II.

Unlike in years past, the parade will be held in the evening from 5:15pm (1045 GMT) because of hot weather, according to a junta spokesman.

Security in Naypyidaw, the junta's remote, purpose-built capital, was tight with few cars on the roads in the run-up to the event.

The February 2021 coup against Aung San Suu Kyi's elected government unleashed turmoil that has left thousands dead and shattered Myanmar's economy.

At last year's parade, Min Aung Hlaing -- flanked by tanks and missile launchers -- vowed "decisive action" against the junta's opponents, but over the last six months, the generals' grip on power has looked shakier than ever.

Dozens of anti-junta "People's Defence Forces" (PDFs) have enlisted tens of thousands of young recruits to battle the army across the country.

And in October last year an alliance of ethnic minority fighters launched a surprise offensive in northern Shan state, capturing territory and taking control of lucrative trade routes to China.

Tom Andrews, the UN's special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, 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 prompted thousands of potential recruits to try to flee the country, with the Thai embassy in Yangon deluged with visa applicants.

The military justified its coup with unsubstantiated claims of electoral fraud during elections in 2020, which were won by Nobel laureate Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party.

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

More than 4,500 people have been killed in the military's crackdown on dissent since the February 2021 coup and over 26,000 arrested, according to a local monitoring group. - AFP

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Myanmar , Armed Forces Day , elections , junta


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