A committee representing elected lawmakers– who have been unable to take their seats in parliament following the February 1 coup in Myanmar– announced the removal of all ethnic armed organisations (EAOs) from the country’s list of terrorist groups and unlawful associations on Wednesday.
The Committee Representing the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH) issued a statement condemning all arrests and detentions under Section 17(1) of Myanmar’s Unlawful Associations Act, which prescribes up to three years in prison for affiliation with an “unlawful association.” The CRPH said that it considers the Section 17(1) arrests and charges leveraged against EAOs fighting for national equality and self-determination illegitimate.
The CRPH “expresse[d] its profound gratitude” to EAOs that have provided “care and protection” to civil servants participating in the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) in opposition to the military junta. The committee recognised and congratulated these EAOs for their “strong commitment to the building of [a] federal democratic union.”
In the wake of violent crackdowns by the junta’s armed forces on anti-coup protesters nationwide, the CRPH labelled the Myanmar army a terrorist organisation on March 1.
Of the more than 20 ethnic armed groups in Myanmar, 10, including the Karen National Union (KNU) and the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA) have signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) with the previous National League for Democracy government and the military.
Affiliation with EAOs not signatory to the NCA, such as those in the Northern Alliance, has led to charges under Section 17(1). These cases have been disproportionately brought against civilians belonging to ethnic nationalities.
The military coup council announced on March 11 that it would remove the Arakan Army, a Northern Alliance member with which it had been engaging in intensifying clashes for nearly two years in Rakhine State, from its list of terrorist groups.
No other EAOs were removed from the list.
The military continues to engage in ongoing clashes with EAOs in Kachin and northern Shan State, including the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), another Northern Alliance member. In Karen State and Bago Region, the junta’s armed forces have been fighting with NCA signatory the KNU.
While the KIA has not commented directly on the coup, in a February 10 statement it said it would protect the people’s anti-military movement if the armed forces violently suppressed it.
The KNU has also said it would protect protesters, and has provided asylum for police officers who joined the CDM.
The RCSS/SSA issued a statement condemning the military coup, and has offered to protect civil servants participating in the CDM.
The 10 NCA-signatory EAOs announced on February 20 that they would suspend the peace process, and on March 11 they held an online meeting to discuss ways to stop the killing of civilians by the military council.
On March 5, the CRPH called for the military-drafted 2008 Constitution to be abolished and a federal, democratic Constitution to be established. Ten days later, the CRPH issued a law protecting the public’s right to defend themselves from the military’s violent crackdown on protesters with the aim of establishing a federal army.