- A Myanmar militia declared war on the military junta, pushing the country closer to war.
- Firefights between junta soldiers and the People’s Defense Force broke out on the streets of Mandalay.
- This is the first time gunfights between rebels and troops broke out in Myanmar’s cities since the February 1 coup.
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A formal declaration of war has been made on Myanmar’s military junta by an armed militia group.
On the same day that gunfights between rebels and the country’s security forces broke out on the streets of Mandalay, Myanmar’s second-largest city, a group of resistance fighters called the People’s Defense Force made a public statement.
“We’ve declared war. The day we’ve been waiting for is finally here,” said Bo Tun Tauk Naing, a spokesman for the People’s Defense Force in Mandalay on Tuesday, per a report from local news organization Myanmar Now.
According to Myanmar Now, this is the first time that guerilla groups have exchanged fire with the country’s armed forces in a city environment.
CNN reported that clashes erupted around an apartment building between a group of rebels and soldiers patrolling the city, which the junta alleges was a guerilla base camp.
The country has seen an unending onslaught of violence since the military junta swept to power in an early morning coup that happened on February 1 this year, rounding up top Myanmar politicians, including civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and then-President Win Myint.
Aung San is currently on trial for several charges, and the country’s junta-backed election commission resolved to dissolve her National League for Democracy Party, branding them traitors.
Peaceful protests and mass civilian demonstrations in the city quickly turned deadly in the weeks following the coup. The violence was thought to have reached a crescendo in March during a particularly bloody day of protests that coincided with the country’s Armed Forces Day.
But the fresh clashes on Tuesday, and the declaration of war that followed, signal a new shift in the kind of violence that Myanmar’s major cities should brace for.
According to a report by ANI News, guerilla groups before Tuesday focused most of their attacks on remote areas in Myanmar’s frontier regions. But more young activists are being trained by insurgents in the remote mountainous regions of Myanmar, wrote the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and they may soon return to their towns and cities armed and ready for urban conflict. These fighters may also resort to insurgency tactics to take on the overwhelming force of Myanmar’s army, which claims it has half a million soldiers, per The New York Times.
The violence could also see a swift escalation in the weeks to come; Nikkei reported on the use of Russian-made rocket launchers by army troops against People’s Defense Force fighters on Tuesday afternoon.
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