Rebel groups refuse to attend Myanmar military event

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YANGON, Myanmar

Most powerful rebel groups in Myanmar have rejected an invitation to an annual national event organized by Myanmar’s military on Saturday.

Leaders and representatives of the ethnic rebel groups traditionally attend the ceremony in the administrative capital of Nay Pyi Taw to mark Armed Forces Day, which is celebrated annually on March 27, the day the Myanmar army pushed back the Japanese forces in 1945.

Ten signatory groups to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) that suspended the political dialogue with the junta in late February in the wake of a brutal crackdown on anti-coup protesters will not attend the ceremony.

On Friday, the anti-coup protesters launched an online campaign calling for street protests across the country to mark the day.

Saw Kwe Htoo Win, secretary of the Kayin National Union, the most powerful of the NCA signatories, confirmed that all other groups have also turned down the military invitation.

“NCA signatories have already suspended political talks with the military as they have not met our demand to restore civilian rule and release detainees. Our call went unanswered, and therefore, we decided not to communicate with the military as long as they ignored our calls,” he told Anadolu Agency over the phone on Friday.

Tension has been escalating between the military and the ethnic rebel groups across the country after the regime’s security forces killed hundreds of protesters during the brutal crackdown on the anti-coup movement.

According to a local media outlet, Kachin Independent Army (KIA), another powerful rebel group that is NCA non-signatory, also refused to attend the event.

Myitkyina News Journal reported that the KIA instead raid three military outposts in Hpakant, the major jade mining area in northern Kachin State, this week.

Analysts fear civil war

Analysts fear that the regime’s response to the pro-democracy movement is fueling the civil war in the country.

“Myanmar has the world’s longest civil war, but not something like collective revolt by the ethnic rebel groups,” said Khin Zaw Win, director of the Tampadipa Institute, a Yangon-based think tank.

“The coup and the brutal crackdown by troops on peaceful protests seem to be pushing the rebel groups to unite and launch a collective response,” he told Anadolu Agency over the phone on Friday.

Junta’s security forces have been intensifying the violent crackdown on pro-democracy protests throughout the country since the Feb.1 coup, resulting in the deaths of more than 270 civilians.

Over 300 detainees freed

Meanwhile, more than 300 detainees were released from Yangon’s Insein prison on Friday, according to lawyers helping the protesters detained during the crackdown.

“After being detained for more than a week, they are released from Insein prison today,” said lawyer Thizar Oo, adding that the majority of those freed are students and youths.

The junta also released nearly 700 detainees on Wednesday.

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