Conflicts & War

Myanmar democratic govt announces creation of defense militia

Bangkok, May 5 (EFE).- The Government of National Unity, made up of elected representatives opposed to the Myanmar military junta, announced Wednesday the formation of a militia to defend followers from the repression of the country’s army.

In a statement, the “democratic government” said the People’s Defense Force is the first step toward the creation of a federal army it hopes to be able to train with the help of the ethnic minority guerrillas.

He said its objective is also to end the civil war the Myanmar military has been waging for seven decades against several of the ethnic armed groups that have taken up arms.

The military, who took power in a Feb. 1 coup, have killed at least 769 civilians, mostly anti-junta protesters who have been met with violence and torture by the army.

Yet Myanmar continues to protest daily, sometimes with strategies such as lightning demonstrations, which dissolve before security forces arrive.

Some protesters have opted for violent resistance, even killing members of the army and forming militias or joining armed ethnic groups, as EFE verified.

Earlier on Wednesday, the junta banned the use of satellite television receivers citing a threat to security posed by foreign television channels.

Satellite television is no longer legal in the country and those who violate this rule, especially those who use satellite dishes to receive signals of foreign channels, will be punished with up to one year in jail and a fine of 500,000 kyat ($321), state broadcaster MRTV announced on Tuesday night.

The channel claimed that illegal media outlets broadcast news that threatens national security and public order, and encourages those who commit acts of treason.

Access to internet has also been severely restricted since the coup, first with the blocking of Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook, and then the regular night-time internet shutdowns and the cutting off of internet connectivity for mobile phones since Mar. 15.

The military regime’s attempt to curb information from abroad comes after it approved measures that restrict freedom of expression and revoked the licenses of some of the country’s most popular digital media outlets, including Myanmar Now, Mizzima and Khit Thit Media, which continue to operate in secrecy.

Some 50 journalists are in detention and dozens are in hiding, while 769 people have died at the hands of the junta since the military coup, while 3,677 are detained, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

Meanwhile, Australian authorities are investigating relatives of Myanmar’s military junta living in the country amid fears that they are harboring assets or receiving financial support, according to local media reports Wednesday.

At least 22 relatives of senior junta officials are living in Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers reported, adding that the government will decide on Wednesday whether to extend their visas or force them to return to Myanmar.

The Australian government also announced Wednesday that it will allow Myanmar nationals in the country on temporary visas to remain there.

“These arrangements will support Myanmar nationals in Australia who are affected by the ongoing unrest in Myanmar, consistent with Australia’s international obligations,” Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said in a statement.

The military junta justifies their coup alleging electoral fraud in the November election, which ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won by a landslide and international observers considered free and fair. EFE

bkk-esj-wat/pd/tw/lds

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