Bangkok Desk, May 16 (EFE).- Rebel forces opposed to Myanmar’s military junta have withdrawn from the town of Mindat, in the northwest of the country, after three days of intense fighting with the army which had attacked the civilian population with aerial bombardments and heavy artillery, local press reported Sunday.
According to the online newspaper Myanmar Now, the junta forces took Mindat on Saturday afternoon and forced the withdrawal of the newly formed group of the Chin Defense Force, which opted to put down their weapons to avoid the destruction of the city of 50,000 people.
“We did not withdraw completely, some of us are still in the city. Their strategy is to surround us. We will not respond to their offensives by letting the city be destroyed,” a member of the rebel group told Myanmar Now.
At least five civilians and five military personnel have been killed in the fighting in recent days, according to figures reported by the local press, although there are fears that the toll could rise sharply as more information becomes available.
The withdrawal of forces opposed to the military junta came after the US and UK embassies on Saturday night demanded an end to military violence against civilians.
“The military’s use of weapons of war against civilians, including this week in Mindat, is a further demonstration of the depths the regime will sink to to hold onto power. We call on the military to cease violence against civilians,” the US embassy in Burma said on Twitter.
The British embassy said that “attacks on civilians are illegal and cannot be justified” and called for evidence of the atrocities committed by the military to be sent to the United Nations so the “perpetrators can be held to account.”
Fighting in the area had intensified in recent days despite the military junta, in power since the February 1 coup d’état, declaring martial law on Thursday in Mindat following a series of attacks by the CDF.
Several ethnic minority guerrillas, who represent a third of the country’s 53 million people, have been taking up arms for decades to demand greater autonomy or independence. Some have expressed support for the civil disobedience movement against the military junta.
While fighting continues in border areas, hundreds of people came out again on Sunday to protest against the military junta in the country’s main cities such as Yangon and Mandalay, despite the bloody crackdown on demonstrators that has killed 790 people, according to the Association for the Assistance of Political Prisoners.