Chiang Mai, Thailand (CNN)From a fenced-off compound close to the Myanmar border in northern Thailand, a rebel leader offers a bleak view of Myanmar’s future, as the country is cleaved apart by a military coup.
The possibility of a deepening civil war in Myanmar is “high,” Gen. Yawd Serk said from his administrative base in Chiang Mai province. “The world has changed. I see people in the cities won’t give up. And I see (coup leader) Min Aung Hlaing won’t give up. I think there is possibility that civil war might happen.”Yawd Serk is an old hand at confronting military rulers. He is chairman of the ethnic minority political organization Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) and founder of its armed wing, the Shan State Army (SSA), which controls large pockets of land in Myanmar’s east. His is one of more than two dozen ethnic armed groups that have been fighting against the Myanmar military — know as the Tatmadaw — and each other in the country’s borderlands for greater rights and autonomy, on and off for 70 years. Since the military seized power on February 1, deposing the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, many of these rebel groups — including the RCSS — have expressed support for non-violent nationwide protests against junta rule, and condemned the indiscriminate brutality and deadly use of force inflicted on Burmese civilians by junta-controlled soldiers and police.Myanmar’s Shan State Army Commander, Yawd Serk on March 27 in Chiang Mai, Thailand.Read MoreBut as security forces continue their deadly campaign, there are signs the country is reaching a turning point where rebel groups could engage in renewed conflict, while some in the protest movement start to push for armed resistance in a bid to defend themselves. A senior rebel leader and several protesters, whom CNN is not identifying for security reasons, say a small, but growing number of pro-democracy activists are heading into the jungles where they are receiving combat training from ethnic militias. There are also increasing calls from the urban centers for the ethnic rebel groups to do more to protect people from the military violence. A protest group formed by some of the myriad ethnic minorities in the country recently called on 16 ethnic armed organizations to “urgently” protect the lives of the people. And last Tuesday, three rebel groups in the north of the country, which call themselves the Three Brotherhood Alliance, said if the Myanmar military does not stop killing civilians, “we will join the spring revolution with all the ethnicities for self defense actions.”If the military “continues to shoot and kill people, it means the junta have simply transformed themselves into terrorists,” Yawd Serk said. “We won’t just sit still, we will find every means to protect the people.” Photos: Unrest in MyanmarAn anti-coup protester raises a decorated Easter egg along with the three-fingered salute of resistance during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar, on Sunday, April 4.Hide Caption 1 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters hold homemade pipe air guns during a demonstration in Yangon on Saturday, April 3.Hide Caption 2 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters hold improvised weapons in Yangon on April 3.Hide Caption 3 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarResidents of the Tamwe area of Yangon participate in a candlelight vigil on April 3.Hide Caption 4 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarPeople take part in a “flower strike” in Yangon on Friday, April 2.Hide Caption 5 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters wearing face paint stand near a burning barricade during an anti-coup demonstration in Yangon on Tuesday, March 30.Hide Caption 6 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarSoldiers walk toward anti-coup protesters during a demonstration in Yangon on March 30.Hide Caption 7 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters run to avoid the military in Yangon on March 30.Hide Caption 8 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA man rides his bike as smoke billows from burning barricades in Yangon on March 30.Hide Caption 9 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters throw stones and use slingshots as security forces approached in Yangon on March 28.Hide Caption 10 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarSmoke rises after anti-coup protesters burned tires in Yangon on March 27.Hide Caption 11 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters make incendiary devices during an anti-coup rally in Yangon.Hide Caption 12 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarSmoke rises over Yangon’s Thaketa Township on March 27.Hide Caption 13 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarMourners attend the funeral of Tin Hla, a 43-year-old who was reportedly shot dead by security forces during a protest.Hide Caption 14 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarPeople cry in Yangon after a relative was shot during a crackdown on anti-coup protesters.Hide Caption 15 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters occupy a street during a rally in Yangon on March 27.Hide Caption 16 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters gesture during a march in Yangon on March 26.Hide Caption 17 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarThein Zaw, a journalist with the Associated Press, waves after being released from a prison in Yangon on March 24. He had been detained while covering an anti-coup protest in February.Hide Caption 18 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarMen pray during the funeral of Khin Myo Chit, a 7-year-old girl who was shot in her home by Myanmar’s security forces on March 23. The girl was killed during a military raid, according to the Reuters news agency and the advocacy group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.Hide Caption 19 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA Buddhist monk uses binoculars as he squats behind a road barricade with others in Mandalay, Myanmar, on March 22.Hide Caption 20 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarThe mother of Aung Kaung Htet wails during the teenage boy’s funeral on March 21. Aung, 15, was killed when military junta forces opened fire on anti-coup protesters in Yangon.Hide Caption 21 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarUnidentified people cross the Tiau River at the India-Myanmar border on March 20. Some people from Myanmar have sought refuge in India since the protests began.Hide Caption 22 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarAn anti-coup protester jumps over a makeshift barricade in Yangon on March 19.Hide Caption 23 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters take positions on Yangon’s Bayint Naung Bridge on March 17. The bridge was blocked with an improvised barricade to prevent security forces from crossing.Hide Caption 24 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarMedical students hold up the three-finger salute at the Yangon funeral of Khant Nyar Hein on March 16. The first-year medical student was fatally shot during the crackdown.Hide Caption 25 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters test Molotov cocktails in Yangon on March 16.Hide Caption 26 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters stand near burning tires in Yangon on March 16.Hide Caption 27 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarAnti-coup protesters pray in Yangon on March 14.Hide Caption 28 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarEmergency workers transport the body of Shel Ye Win, who was shot by security forces in Mandalay.Hide Caption 29 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarSmoke billows from the industrial zone of the Hlaing Tharyar township in Yangon on March 14. The Chinese Embassy in Myanmar said several Chinese-funded factories were set ablaze during protests. Demonstrators have accused Beijing of supporting the coup and junta.Hide Caption 30 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA member of Myanmar’s police is seen firing a weapon toward protesters in Yangon on March 13.Hide Caption 31 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarPeople lay flowers and light candles beside bloodied pavement where protester Chit Min Thu was killed in Yangon.Hide Caption 32 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarMilitary trucks are seen near a burning barricade in Yangon that was erected by protesters and then set on fire by soldiers on March 10.Hide Caption 33 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA protester holds a homemade shield during an anti-coup demonstration in Yangon on March 9.Hide Caption 34 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA protester discharges a fire extinguisher to counter the impact of tear gas that was fired by police in Yangon on March 8.Hide Caption 35 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters string up longyi, traditional clothing worn in Myanmar, during a demonstration in Yangon on March 7.Hide Caption 36 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarThe wife of Phoe Chit, a protester who died during a demonstration, cries over her husband’s coffin during his funeral in Yangon on March 5.Hide Caption 37 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters step on portraits of Myanmar’s armed forces chief, Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, during a demonstration in Yangon on March 5.Hide Caption 38 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarPeople cry in Yangon on March 4, near a spot where a family member was killed while protesting.Hide Caption 39 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters lie on the ground after police opened fire to disperse an anti-coup demonstration in Mandalay on March 3.Hide Caption 40 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarSchoolteachers wear traditional hats while participating in an anti-coup demonstration in Mandalay on March 3.Hide Caption 41 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA soldier stands next to a detained man during a demonstration in Mandalay on March 3.Hide Caption 42 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarAnti-coup protesters run in Yangon on March 3. One of them discharged a fire extinguisher to counter the impact of tear gas fired by police.Hide Caption 43 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarAn anti-coup protester writes vital emergency information of another protester on his arm in Yangon.Hide Caption 44 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarPolice run toward protesters to disperse a demonstration in Yangon on March 3.Hide Caption 45 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA citizen of Myanmar living in India burns a poster of Myanmar’s military chief during a protest in New Delhi on March 3.Hide Caption 46 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarMedics help supply oxygen to a protester who was exposed to tear gas in Yangon on March 3.Hide Caption 47 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters flee after tear gas was fired during a demonstration in Yangon on March 1.Hide Caption 48 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters smoke behind shields during a demonstration in Yangon on March 1.Hide Caption 49 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters in Yangon run away from tear gas on March 1.Hide Caption 50 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarPeople in Yangon take part in a ceremony on February 28 to remember those who have been killed during demonstrations.Hide Caption 51 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarSoldiers patrol during a protest in Yangon on February 28.Hide Caption 52 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters take cover as they clash with police in Yangon on February 28.Hide Caption 53 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters erect barricades during a demonstration in Yangon on February 28.Hide Caption 54 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarPolice charge at anti-coup protesters in Yangon on February 27.Hide Caption 55 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarAn injured protester receives medical attention in Mandalay after police and military forces cracked down on protests on February 26.Hide Caption 56 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarFactory workers hold placards and shout slogans as they hold an anti-coup protest in Yangon on February 25.Hide Caption 57 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarAnti-coup protesters shout slogans in Yangon on February 25.Hide Caption 58 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA police officer films protesters near the Indonesian Embassy in Yangon on February 24.Hide Caption 59 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarThida Hnin cries during the funeral of her husband, Thet Naing Win, in Mandalay on February 23. He and another protester were fatally shot by security forces during an anti-coup protest.Hide Caption 60 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarPolice stand guard near the US Embassy in Yangon as protesters take part in an anti-coup demonstration on February 22.Hide Caption 61 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters hold signs featuring civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a demonstration in Yangon on February 22. Hide Caption 62 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters gather for a demonstration on February 22.Hide Caption 63 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA man is carried after police dispersed protesters in Mandalay on February 20. Hide Caption 64 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA police truck uses a water cannon to disperse protesters in Mandalay on February 20.Hide Caption 65 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA police officer aims a gun toward protesters during a demonstration in Mandalay on February 20.Hide Caption 66 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA protester holds a Suu Kyi poster as he sits in front of police in Yangon on February 19.Hide Caption 67 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters flash the three-fingered salute during a rally in downtown Yangon on February 19.Hide Caption 68 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarFlower tributes and sympathy messages are left in Yangon for Mya Thweh Thweh Khine. The 20-year-old was shot in the head at a protest in Naypyidaw, and she died on February 19.Hide Caption 69 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters block a major road during a demonstration in Yangon on February 17.Hide Caption 70 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarDemonstrators block a Yangon bridge with their cars on February 17.Hide Caption 71 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarBuddhist monks march during an anti-coup protest in Yangon on February 16.Hide Caption 72 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA Suu Kyi banner is displayed during demonstrations in Yangon on February 15.Hide Caption 73 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarSoldiers carry barricades in Yangon on February 15.Hide Caption 74 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarElected members of Parliament wave to protesters in Yangon as police surround the headquarters of Suu Kyi’s political party, the National League for Democracy, on February 15.Hide Caption 75 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarMedics clear the way as an injured protester is carried away for treatment in Mandalay, Myanmar, on February 15.Hide Caption 76 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarPeople gather around an armored vehicle in Yangon on February 14.Hide Caption 77 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarYoung people in Yangon take part in an anti-coup hip-hop performance on February 14.Hide Caption 78 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters demonstrate in Yangon on February 14.Hide Caption 79 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA child runs alongside an armored vehicle in Yangon on February 14.Hide Caption 80 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters march through the city of Shwebo on February 13.Hide Caption 81 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarMembers of the Myanmar Photographers Association hold up their cameras as they call for Suu Kyi’s release on February 13.Hide Caption 82 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarPolice detain a protester during a demonstration in Mawlamyine on February 12.Hide Caption 83 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarFarmers ride a tractor with a Suu Kyi poster during a demonstration in Thongwa on February 12.Hide Caption 84 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA protester dressed as Lady Justice makes a three-finger salute as she takes part in a demonstration in Yangon on February 11.Hide Caption 85 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters demonstrate in Bagan, a UNESCO World Heritage site, on February 11.Hide Caption 86 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarGen. Min Aung Hlaing, the country’s military leader, makes a televised statement on February 11. He announced that more than 23,000 prisoners were set to be granted amnesty and released that day. It was unclear what offenses the prisoners were convicted of.Hide Caption 87 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarBodybuilders take part in a protest in Yangon on February 11.Hide Caption 88 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarPeople hold up letters that spell “get out dictators” during a demonstration at Inle Lake on February 11.Hide Caption 89 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA protester carries a child during a march in Yangon on February 10.Hide Caption 90 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarWomen in wedding gowns holds up anti-coup placards in Yangon on February 10.Hide Caption 91 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA police officer aims a gun during clashes with protesters in the capital of Naypyidaw on February 9.Hide Caption 92 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA protester pleads for police to refrain from using tear gas against demonstrators in Yangon on February 9.Hide Caption 93 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarPolice fire water cannons at protesters in Naypyidaw on February 9.Hide Caption 94 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters gather in Yangon on February 8.Hide Caption 95 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters flash three-fingered salutes as they face rows of riot police in Naypyidaw on February 8.Hide Caption 96 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarHospital workers show three-finger salutes during a demonstration in Yangon on February 7.Hide Caption 97 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarA rally takes place in Yangon on February 7.Hide Caption 98 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters shout slogans in Yangon on February 7.Hide Caption 99 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarProtesters give roses to riot police in Yangon on February 6.Hide Caption 100 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarYangon residents bang objects to show support for Suu Kyi and her party on February 5. Hide Caption 101 of 102 Photos: Unrest in MyanmarSoldiers block a road near Myanmar’s Parliament on February 2, a day after the coup.Hide Caption 102 of 102Myanmar’s military junta has repeatedly blamed the violence on protesters and said security forces were using “minimum force.” Military spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun said during an interview that junta forces cracked down because “the crowd are blocking with sand bags, shooting with handmade guns, throwing with fire, throwing with molotov and the security forces have to use the weapons for the riot.” He also said the junta “will hold a free and fair election after the state of emergency,” which is in place for one year. Airstrikes and refugeesThe Tatmadaw is a highly trained fighting force that ruled the country for more than half a century through brutality and fear, turning Myanmar into a poverty-stricken pariah nation. Its sustained conflict with ethnic minorities has displaced hundreds of thousands of people, and rights groups have long linked soldiers to atrocities and human rights abuses, such as rape, torture and other war crimes. Min Aung Hlaing oversaw the campaign of killing and arson waged against the Rohingya ethnic minority population in the country’s west in 2016 and 2017, which prompted a genocide case at the International Court of Justice. Both the NLD-led government at the time and the military denied the charges and have long claimed to be targeting terrorists.In the cities, elite counter-insurgency troops involved in these atrocities have been deployed and seen armed on the streets alongside other security forces. Since March 27, military fighter jets have screeched over the jungles and mountains of southeastern Karen state, launching airstrikes on villages and schools controlled by Myanmar’s oldest rebel group, the Karen National Union (KNU), for the first time in 20 years, according to multiple humanitarian groups on the ground.A handout photo made available by Royal Thai Army shows injured fleeing Karen villagers arriving after crossing at a Thai-Myanmar border in Mae Hong Son province, Thailand, 30 March.The Tatmadaw bombs have killed at least six civilians, including children, and sent 12,000 people running from their homes, humanitarian groups said. Some of those villagers fled over Salween River into neighboring Thailand. The offensive came after a KNU brigade seized a military base in Mutraw district. In retaliation, Myanmar military ground troops have now advanced into the rebel territories “from all fronts,” the KNU said. In the country’s north, fighting has also increased since the coup between Kachin rebels called the Kachin Independence Army and the military, displacing hundreds of people, according to local media.Both the KNU and RCSS are signatories of a 2015 Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), signed by 10 ethnic armed organizations. The two groups have signaled the attacks mean the uneasy ceasefire deal was now at risk.”We have long foreseen a military offensive at the end of the dead-end NCA peace process,” the KNU said. Its head of foreign affairs, Saw Taw Nee, said the agreement was “paralyzed.”Shan leader Yawd Serk said that since the coup, “all things on the negotiation table just collapsed.” Analysts say the military will be keen to avoid a situation in which it is drawn into conflict with multiple groups at once.”Ultimately, the priority for the Tatmadaw is always going to be the heartland and maintaining control of the central government,” said Matthew Henman, associate director and head of Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre. He added that while many of these groups can’t compare to the size and firepower of the military, they “could prove to be a real kind of destabilizing force.”Last week, Myanmar’s military junta announced on state television a unilateral ceasefire for one month, which appeared to refer to military actions taken against ethnic armed groups, which it called on to “keep the peace.” Excluded from the peace, however, are those who “disrupt” government security.Fleeing protesters in ethnic areasFleeing the killings, beatings, arbitrary detentions and midnight raids in cities across the country, a growing number of people are seeking shelter in some of these ethnic areas controlled by rebel insurgents. Saw Taw Nee said about 2,000 people had fled the junta’s crackdowns in towns and cities to KNU territory, among them protesters, striking workers with the Civil Disobedience Movement, ousted government officials, and members of Aung San Suu Kyi’s party the National League for Democracy. The KNU said it was providing them with humanitarian assistance such as food and shelter. “Mostly they involved in the movement and they dare not to stay any longer in their place and they are being sought for arrest,” Saw Taw Nee said. “Most are very young people.”Training for young recruits of the 5th Brigade of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) on June 27, 2012.Saw Taw Nee said he supports the protesters in cities by giving advice over video platforms on how to survive against the military’s guns on the streets. “We support them not by going into the cities with a big army,” he said. Shan leader Yawd Serk said they are also giving protection to those fleeing the junta. “If we enter the cities we will inevitably justify the acts of the Burmese junta. We are not entering cities. People who flee, we will take care of them. They are protesting peacefully,” he said. Jungle training camps and calls for armed resistanceNot all protesters are only seeking sanctuary, however. A small percentage are now also heading to the jungles with the intention of learning how to fight back.At least 570 people have been killed by security forces since the coup, according to advocacy group the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. Among them are 46 children, the United Nations Children’s Fund UNICEF said. Protesters have tried to defend themselves against the security force’s bullets with flimsy homemade shields, plastic hard hats and barricades made of sand bags.But as the death toll continues to rise, one protest leader in Yangon said the movement is fracturing. Alongside the mass peaceful protests across the country, a small radical fringe is emerging. The Yangon protest leader, who did not want to be named for his safety, said some demonstrators in the city have made largely unsuccessful attempts to carry out what they call “carwash operations.””A carwash operation is throwing molotovs at a moving or stationary vehicle. Whether there is army personnel in it or an empty truck,” he said. Another was a “cleaning service,” which he said refers to arson attacks.Anti-coup protesters hold improvised weapons during a protest in Yangon on April 3, in Yangon, Myanmar. It is unclear how widespread or accepted the two actions are among the protest movement in Yangon, and the protest leader did not point to specific occurrences. While he is against violence, he said, other protest leaders are encouraging this type of operation. And as the situation deteriorates in the cities with increasing deaths, arrests and enforced disappearances, more people, the protester leader said, could be swayed to take action.”When ordinary civilians like us, office workers like us, start taking arms and get training for six months and start shooting people, I guess civil war would be unavoidable,” he said. But increased violence, he added, “won’t accomplish our goal” and would only play into the junta’s hands. “Actually that kind of movement would drive us farther away from our goal of getting rid of this dictator,” he said, referring to junta chief Min Aung Hlaing.Peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations in 1988 were brutally put down by the military. Thousands were killed — and the thousands more arrested were given decades-long prison sentences and subjected to torture. Young protesters formed a student army called the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front to fight against the junta and trained under some of the rebel groups.Now, some activists are following a similar path.One protester CNN spoke to, who did not want to be named for safety reasons, said he had been receiving training at a jungle camp for the past three weeks.It is unclear precisely how many people were at the camp, but the activist said those training alongside him were “very ordinary people” who felt they had no other choice. They were now learning how to use guns and build bombs, the activist said. An anti-coup protester throws a Molotov cocktail to confront police in Yangon, Myanmar on March 28, 2021. “They (the security forces) just shoot us. We don’t have anything. We just walk on street with nothing in our hand and then they shoot us,” he said. “It should be weapon and weapon, it should not be non-violence and then weapon. It became no choice for us.”The senior rebel leader, whom CNN is not naming for security reasons, confirmed a few dozen protesters were receiving military training in his territory. “They have learned just like how we trained our soldiers,” the rebel leader said. “They said they have nothing to lose, they have to finish this military dictatorship otherwise there is no future for Myanmar.”Back in Chiang Mai province, Shan leader Yawd Serk held his cards close to his chest about what role his rebel group will have if the military violence continues, but said they will support the protesters — including training them. “When they flee from trouble, we will take care of them. But if they want to have training, we will train them,” he said. But he added, “We have to separate peaceful protest. If we end up sending protesters with weapons it would just justify the killing of Burmese military.” After more than 70 years of conflict, Myanmar is awash with weapons that can be bought on the black market, though there’s no evidence that they’re being stockpiled in the cities.The military junta announced in state controlled media Friday citizens who have fled to the ethnic areas or overseas would be allowed to return. “The State Administration Council will arrange their returns from evaded areas to various regions of Myanmar,” the military said. However, the invitation exempts “persons who committed any kinds of crime,” a vague directive that could be applied to anyone. What comes nextMeanwhile, a group of ousted lawmakers with the ruling NLD are spearheading calls to form a federal army that includes the ethnic armed groups. They have also revealed plans to form a transitional government to counter the military junta themselves. The group, called the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH) appears to have widespread support among the leaderless movement, and released last week an interim government roadmap that, among other things, calls for escalating the country’s civil disobedience movement.”The CRPH is going to form a government in the very near future. And the government will have its own army. We have been talking to ethnic armed groups and we have the right to defend ourselves. The people have the right to defend ourselves,” said Htin Lin Aung, the CRPH’s representative of international relations based in Maryland, US. Myanmar's ethnic groups have long suffered from military brutality. The junta gave them a common foeBut uniting the disparate rebel groups against the Tatmadaw is unlikely and several rebel leaders say such a movement is a long way off becoming a reality. While many have formed alliances, there are deep rooted differences and continued inter-fighting between others. There is also a strong distrust among ethnic minority people that any Bamar majority governance group, like the CRPH, would be serious about incorporating the ethnic wishes of federalism and self-determination from the start. The KNU’s Saw Taw Nee said it was important first to build a federal democratic union, in which all ethnic groups are represented, then a federal army could follow. “Its very difficult to have an army like this now. Mainly because we have different opinions, different backgrounds, among ethnic groups,” he said. “The main thing is to build trust between ethnic people.”The RCSS’s Yawd Serk said it was “not the right time to talk about our military capacity.” But he did say “we have been in war for decades, we know what we need and how much we need. And we have already prepared for that.”
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