BANGKOK/YANGON -- The head of Myanmar's anti-coup parallel government has declared a "defensive war" against the military regime in a sign of escalating conflict in the Southeast Asian country.
Duwa Lashi La, the acting president of the National Unity Government (NUG) formed by politicians elected in last November's general election and activists opposing the Feb. 1 military takeover, on Tuesday used Facebook to urge citizens "in every corner of the country" to rebel against the military regime led by Gen. Min Aung Hlaing. He also called on armed ethnic groups to take collective action.
Duwa Lashi La also said the People's Defense Forces (PDF) -- the shadow government's military arm launched in May -- will "protect the lives and properties of the people."
Special envoy Erywan Yus of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, who is second foreign minister of Brunei, had earlier called for a four-month cease-fire. But according to Duwa Lashi La's speech: "I believe that our neighboring countries, ASEAN countries, United Nations and all the other countries around the world understand, that we do [this action] out of necessity based on the country's current situation."
The NUG president called for bureaucrats currently working under the military regime to leave their posts. "All the civil servants under the military council, we warn and forbid you from going to the office from today onward."
Duwa Lashi La's statement also said: "As the people's revolution begins, all the soldiers, the polices forces, and civil servants who have been deceived and suppressed by Min Aung Hlaing immediately join the People's Defense Forces and immediately report to the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Home Affair of National Unity Government."
After the military takeover in February, people in cities and towns openly opposed and protested in the face of harsh military crackdowns. The death toll topped 1,000 by August, according to human rights groups.
Many senior members of the deposed government remain in detention, including pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi of the National League for Democracy, which won the November election by a landslide.
Some of Myanmar's youth who have rebelled against the military have reportedly been given received combat training by ethnic armed groups and have gone into hiding.
According to Padoh Mahn Mahn, an NUG member who is spokesperson for the Karen National Union, one of the oldest ethnic armed groups, the PDF includes NUG personnel and fighters from armed ethnic groups. Though there is no official coordination between the groups, the minister said "they may connect with each other [and] have common goal and missions."