The head of Myanmar’s military government has pledged to take decisive action against what he has described as “acts of terrorism” by armed resistance groups.
Min Aung Hlaing also accused countries that criticize his regime’s human rights record of being sponsors of terrorism.
Since seizing power in 2021, the military has been locked in a bloody civil war against resistance groups.
The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced more than a million.
But General Min Aung Hlaing, who delivered a rare speech at an annual military parade in the capital Naypyidaw, had an unyielding message: Myanmar’s armed forces will not stop fighting opponents to their rule, no matter what the cost.
The 66-year-old also noted that “key townships” are increasingly being imposed martial law to “fight terrorists who are trying to ruin people’s interests”. He said that eventually elections would be held and power would be handed over to “the winning party”, although given the ongoing conflict it was unclear when that would happen.
The parade marks the 78th anniversary of the establishment of the Myanmar National Army during World War II to fight the Japanese invasion.
But in recent years, pomp has acquired a special meaning. An increasingly isolated Myanmar continues to demonstrate the military might it has used to devastating effect against rebels, some of whom are less than 50 km (31 miles) from the capital.
However, the country retains the support of China and Russia, whose officials were at the parade. Russian MI35 attack helicopters were on display alongside Chinese K8 ground attack aircraft and FTC2000 jets recently purchased in Beijing. Many of these weapons have been used in rebel strongholds since the coup, often killing civilians and even children.
Among the units welcoming the coup leaders at Monday’s parade are many accused of unspeakable atrocities, including massacres of civilians, that have drawn international criticism and sanctions.
Last Friday, the United States announced further sanctions against Myanmar aimed at supplying jet fuel to the military following airstrikes in civilian-populated areas.
Along with other Western countries, it had already imposed sanctions on junta members, military government agencies and military-run companies to limit their ability to raise funds.
But in the safety of their fortified citadel, Myanmar’s military believes brute force against an increasingly weary population will eventually cement their regime.