Bangkok Desk, Apr 1 (efe-epa).- Myanmar’s military junta has declared a month-long unilateral ceasefire with ethnic armed groups as at least 20 soldiers were killed in a clash with the Kachin Independence Army and a UN envoy warned of the possibility of “civil war at an unprecedented scale.”
The military’s announcement Wednesday night did not indicate any intention to stop violence against civilians, with over 530 killed since the Feb. 1 coup, according to the Association for the Assistance of Political Prisoners.
“They are still killing and torturing the unarmed people,” AAPP joint secretary Ko Bo Kyi said Thursday on Twitter.
The announcement came as at least 20 soldiers were killed and four military vehicles destroyed in a confrontation with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), one of the most powerful armed ethnic groups in the country, according to DVB News on Thursday.
The KIA also attacked a police outpost in Shwegu township, in the same state, in retaliation for police crackdowns on protesters, a KIA spokesperson told the Irrawaddy outlet.
Meanwhile, 74 Media reported Thursday that the KIA also attacked a military base in Hpakant township, also in Kachin state, adding that fighting had resumed in the state after the junta’s security forces shot and killed peaceful protesters.
The other focus of ethnic conflict in recent days is Karen state, where on Saturday the military launched its first airstrikes in two decades, killing at least three villagers and forcing thousands of residents to flee into jungles and to try to seek refuge in neighboring Thailand.
Despite the repression, protests resumed Thursday in the country’s main cities, where protesters burned copies of the 2008 Constitution, declared void Wednesday night by the civilian government.
The Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), formed by elected lawmakers unable to take their seats and self-proclaimed as the legitimate government, made the announcement on Wednesday night, saying all ethnic people in the country need a federal democratic nation that gives full assurance of justice, equality, freedom and rights to fundamental democracy.
The 2008 constitution was written by the then-military junta, granting it broad powers, including 25 percent of the legislative seats and control of the key home affairs, border and defense ministries, which opened the transition to what it called a “disciplined democracy.”
On Tuesday the CRPH asked the country’s armed ethnic groups two weeks ago to join forces against the military junta, a request answered on Tuesday by three of them, who threatened to annul their ceasefire agreement if indiscriminate killing continues.
Overnight, United Nations special envoy on Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, told the UN Security Council that “the military’s cruelty is too severe and many (armed ethnic fighters) are taking clear stances of opposition, increasing the possibility of civil war at an unprecedented scale.”
She warned “a bloodbath is imminent” as crackdowns on protesters escalate, and told the UNSC to “consider all available tools to take collective action and do what is right (…) and prevent a multi-dimensional catastrophe in the heart of Asia.”
The military junta justified the Feb. 1 coup by alleging fraud in November’s elections, in which incumbent leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won a landslide victory. EFE-EPA