A coalition of three major ethnic armed armed groups on Sunday declared its support for the Bamar People’s Liberation Army (BPLA), which was formed a year ago to fight against the junta.
The Northern Alliance, made up of the Arakan Army (AA), the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), said it would help the new group achieve its political and military goals.
The show of support came as the BPLA celebrated its one-year anniversary on Sunday. It was formed to represent the interests of the Bamar people in the struggle against the dictatorship and its founding members include the prominent poet Maung Saungkha.
Within its first year, the group has managed to gain the trust of several ethnic armed organisations while demonstrating its abilities in combat, the Northern Alliance’s statement said.
Maung Saungkha, who is also the BPLA’s spokesperson, said the group is fighting not just for the liberation of the Bamar people but for all oppressed ethnic groups in Myanmar.
The BPLA is among a vast array of anti-junta armed groups that have sprung up across the country since the military seized power last year.
Political analyst and former MP Pe Than said the BPLA was unique in being the only organised armed group representing the Bamar people.
“The Northern Alliance recognises the BPLA as a legitimate organisation representing the Bamar people, and they clearly understand and recognise the meaning of… Bamar people’s liberation,” he said.
“I think the BPLA is currently the only armed organisation representing Bamar people,” he added. “There are other organisations, of course, but they are all scattered and not organised. I think this will further push BPLA to unite all the People’s Defence Force movements scattered all over the country.”
The BPLA has been fighting in southeastern Myanmar’s Hpapun district alongside the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA). The KNLA’s deputy commander-in-chief, General Saw Baw Kyaw Heh, attended the group’s anniversary ceremony on Sunday.
Several members of the AA were also in attendance, photos of the event showed.
The underground National Unity Government’s (NUG) defence ministry also sent a letter of congratulations to the group.
A 12-year-old girl currently sitting for her exams in the forests of Hpa-an told Myanmar Now—with the permission of her guardian and teacher—that she and her peers were worried that even in the woods, they could still be the target of further attacks by the military.
“I heard about the bombings in other regions that killed kids my age and it breaks my heart every time I hear news like this,” she said. “I feel so bad for them but I can’t do anything about it. Even I, myself, am taking my exams in the forest, not knowing when the military is going to come back and launch airstrikes.”
Locals said that junta jets were also seen hovering over villages located around the KNU headquarters, located at another site also named Lay Wah but in Hpa-an District, on February 18, with drones scouting the area in the evening.
Some 1,000 residents of two area villages subsequently left their homes, fearing forthcoming attacks. Those who stayed behind did so because of health conditions that prevented them from fleeing, a man from the area explained, noting that they positioned themselves near bunkers and trenches if bombings were to occur.
“Some clinics are even sending patients home as we don’t know when the next airstrike will come,” the man said, adding that these sites have been targeted in past assaults.
Among the villagers who left, some attempted to cross the Thaungyin (Moei) River and enter neighbouring Thailand, but were reportedly turned back by the local authorities.
“Some families tried to cross over to Thailand, thinking they’d be safe there. But they could only go as far as the shore, as the Thai police force wouldn’t let them across,” another local said.
The junta has carried out some 307 airstrikes within Karen territory in the two years since the February 2021 military coup, the KNU said on Tuesday.
During this time, 36 civilians were killed and 57 were injured in the aerial attacks and heavy weapons fire by the regime; more than 20 of these deaths occurred in late March 2021, when the military carried out three days of airstrikes on villages in the KNU’s Brigade 5.
Some 258 homes, 12 schools, six hospitals, eight churches and four monasteries were also destroyed by the junta in KNU territory over the last two years, according to the organisation.
The military council has denied carrying out such attacks against the public, instead claiming that it targets “terrorists.”