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OPPONENTS of Myanmar’s military junta hailed “a new day” today as they announced the formation of a new national unity government.
The parallel administration, branded “the people’s government” during a launch video by veteran democracy activist Min Ko Naing, includes ousted members of parliament, leading figures in the protest movement and representatives from a range of ethnic minority backgrounds.
Mr Min acknowledged that forming the unity government, which will now seek international recognition, had been a difficult task. “We’re trying to get [the junta] out from the roots so we have to sacrifice a lot,” he said.
Others stayed at home as part of a “silent protest” held in memory of the more than 700 people who have been killed as part of a brutal crackdown on anti-coup protesters.
Small marches also took place in several towns and cities, with participants wearing black as a sign of mourning. But the streets of Yangon, the country’s largest city, were largely deserted.
“We have to stage a silent strike to show our sorrow for the martyrs who have sacrificed their lives,” protest leader Ei Thinzar Maung said. “The most silent voice is the loudest.”
Large demonstrations and strikes have hit most of Myanmar’s major towns and cities since the military seized power on February 1.
Generals have denied mounting a coup, insisting that they are simply safeguarding democracy while investigating unfounded allegations of fraud in last November’s election, which was won by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy in a landslide.
Ms Suu Kyi faces numerous charges including the illegal use of telecommunications equipment and remains behind bars along with other leading figures from her party.
The military junta has moved to arrest several leading figures from the protest movement and has published the names of 200 people wanted under a law that makes it illegal to mutiny or encourage dereliction of duty in the armed forces.
The Ayeyarwaddy Federal Army, a previously unknown group believed to be made up of disaffected soldiers from Myanmar’s army, said on Facebook that it aimed to fight the military to restore an elected government and protect the people. It also called for volunteers.
The unity government’s minister of international co-operation Salai Maung Taing San, known popularly as Dr Sasa, said its objective was to end violence, restore democracy and build a “federal democratic union.”
“A new day has come for our people, a new era for Myanmar has started,” he said.
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