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The head of Burma’s ruling military council, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, used his speech on Armed Forces Day to criticize the nation’s youth for supporting the resistance against army rule, accusing them of being tricked by false narratives. He also accused ethnic armed groups allied with the resistance of engaging in illegal activities such as drug trafficking, natural resources smuggling, and illegal gambling. The military parade in the capital, Naypyitaw, was meant to show strength amidst a series of unprecedented battlefield defeats that have tarnished the army’s once invincible reputation. Min Aung Hlaing urged the international community not to support the resistance forces, blaming them for disturbing the process for planned but not yet scheduled elections.

Since the military’s seizure of power in 2021 and the following brutal suppression of opposition, many Western nations have imposed sanctions on Burma’s ruling generals. Military offensives have displaced over 2 million people, according to the United Nations. Min Aung Hlaing expressed disappointment in seeing youths being misled by insurgents and accused ethnic armed groups of obstructing the path to a union based on democratic values and federalism. The military’s overthrow of the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi led to nationwide armed resistance, with young people joining forces with ethnic guerrilla groups in remote border areas. Despite the army’s losses in various regions, they activated a conscription law in an attempt to strengthen their position.

The military’s involvement in illegal activities, such as drug production and protecting casino complexes engaged in online scams, has been criticized by observers. The parade marking the 79th Armed Forces Day was held at sunset for the first time due to unusually hot weather caused by the El Nino phenomenon. Armed Forces Day commemorates the day in 1945 when the Burmese army began fighting against occupying Japanese forces. Statements by the British and Canadian embassies condemned the military’s attacks on civilians, including airstrikes on homes, schools, healthcare facilities, and places of worship. Canada urged all countries to stop the sale or transfer of arms and military equipment to Burma immediately.

Min Aung Hlaing’s army has suffered defeats in Shan state and Rakhine state, conceding territory and facing growing attacks in other areas. The military’s suppression of protests against its takeover triggered the armed resistance that has united young people with ethnic guerrilla forces. As losses mount and morale declines, authorities are turning to conscription to bolster their forces. The army’s takeover in 2021 was justified by allegations of massive voter fraud in the 2020 election, which independent poll watching groups disputed. Despite international sanctions and condemnation from the international community, the military in Burma continues to crackdown on resistance forces and target civilians in its efforts to maintain control.

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