Seven months after Myanmar’s military took control in a coup, the shadow opposition government has declared a nationwide “defensive war”.
Speaking in a video posted on social media, National Unity Government (NUG) acting president Duwa Lashi La called for revolt “in every village, town and city in the entire country at the same time” and declared a state of emergency.
While the timing of the announcement was a surprise for many, the content wasn’t.
Whispers about a so-called “D-Day” where opposition forces would rise up as one have been circulating for months.
A recent spate of arrests of urban resistance fighters was seen as a sign that the military has also been on alert.
Throughout the day, sources in both the NUG and people’s defence forces have all told Sky News the decision to launch this “war” was a direct result of ongoing violence by the junta.
“The people of Myanmar are forced to defend themselves against a military terrorism operation,” NUG spokesperson Dr Sasa told Sky News.
“More than a thousand people of Myanmar have been killed by the military after the coup, more than seven thousand people of Myanmar have been arrested
“Every day the killing continues and the military junta in Myanmar are bringing more deaths, more destruction, more pain and more suffering. So the people of Myanmar have said enough is enough and declared now we need to defend ourselves from these atrocities.”
Hundreds of thousands of people have watched the acting president’s call to action in the hours since it was published, many pledging their support online.
“The NUG’s call for a people’s defensive war makes me so excited and overwhelmed,” Han Zaw Latt, an activist with the Gen Z Burma group said.
“I am sure all the people from Myanmar share the same feelings, as we have been waiting for the day since 1 February.
“As the global community has witnessed, the military has continued to employ brutal oppression over the Myanmar people who dare to refuse their unjust administration.
“This is the time to bring justice, not revenge, for those inhumane acts.”
Next week’s meeting of the United Nations General Assembly has no doubt played a role in the timing of today’s announcement.
A discussion is due to start over who should represent Myanmar – the NUG is determined it’s them rather than the military regime.
Today, a spokesperson for the military told the press “the NUG wants to show their activities to the world as the UN General Assembly is coming on 14 September”.
While a nationwide revolt may have been announced, the picture coming out of Myanmar may not change that radically.
Grassroots people’s defence forces have been fighting security forces since the spring along with ethnic armed forces, some of whom have been battling the military for more than 70 years.
“Those groups who have been resisting the coup have been doing so for months,” said senior Myanmar adviser to International Crisis Group Richard Horsey.
“There isn’t some huge untapped new resource that will be unleashed by the resistance today but I think it will energise and possibly lead to an escalation in the kinds of resistance that we have seen.
“Both in terms of civil disobedience and people refusing to cooperate and work in the civil service, but also potentially an uptick in the activities of people’s defence forces and other groups who’ve been violently resisting.”
While the military has more manpower and more weapons, this isn’t a traditional insurgency.
The past few months of mass protest have shown the majority of people in Myanmar are opposed to the coup and want a return to democracy.
The plan is all resistance groups will now fight in a unified and united way, stretching the armed forces’ response across the country.
A potential rise in attacks on infrastructure, transport and administrative offices in cities will present another challenge for the regime which the opposition hopes to weaken further by tempting more soldiers, police and civil servants to defect.
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How the next few months play out will depend on the actions and level of violence employed by both sides in the coming days.
One thing is for sure – there will be more bloodshed.
For the people of Myanmar already battling a coup, COVID-19 and an economic crisis, life is likely to get even harder.
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