Myanmar’s military rulers have branded a national unity government formed by MPs forced to flee in the wake of the coup a terrorist group and blamed it for bombings, arson and killings as part of a propaganda campaign in state-controlled media on Saturday.
Myanmar’s army overthrew the elected government on 1 February and detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, sparking months of protests during which hundreds of people have been killed by security forces. In response, local militias have been formed to confront the army while anti-junta protests have continued across the south-east Asian country and strikes have paralysed the economy.
Saturday’s announcement follows the junta’s crackdown on independent news outlets, raiding media outlets and most recently banning satellite dishes and threatening prison sentences for anyone who violates the measure.
The national unity government (NUG), which was set up by pro-democracy politicians and operates under cover, itself describes the army as a terrorist force. The NUG announced this week that it would set up a people’s defence force.
State television MRTV announced that the NUG, a committee of ousted lawmakers known as the CRPH and the new defence force would all now be covered by the anti-terrorism law, saying: “Their acts caused so much terrorism in many places.”
The anti-terrorism law bans not only membership of the groups, but also any contact with them. The junta had previously accused its opponents of treason.
Protesters marched against the junta in dozens of places on Saturday. At least 774 civilians have been killed by security forces and 3,778 are detained, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners activist group.
The junta says at least two dozen members of the security forces have been killed in protests.
Fighting has also flared on Myanmar’s periphery with ethnic armies that have been fighting for decades, some of which have rallied behind the protesters. State television said the army had advanced against the Kachin independence army in northern Myanmar, but there was no independent confirmation.
In western Myanmar, the newly formed Chinland defence force said it had overrun an army camp. The army made no comment on the report.
Myanmar’s army took power alleging fraud in a November election that was swept by the party of Aung Sun Suu Kyi, who fought for democracy for decades before tentative reforms began a decade ago. The electoral commission had rejected the army’s complaints.