The National Unity Government has formally partnered with a Chin ethnic armed group to “demolish” junta rule, it said on Saturday.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military overthrew the elected National League for Democracy government in February and launched a brutal crackdown on dissent.
A group of ousted lawmakers and ethnic leaders later set up a parallel National Unity Government, which has sought to bring anti-coup dissidents together with Myanmar’s myriad ethnic armed groups to form a “federal army” to challenge the junta.
On Saturday, the Chin National Front signed an agreement to “demolish the dictatorship and to implement a federal democratic system” in Myanmar, the NUG said in a statement.
They pledged “mutual recognition” and to “partner equally” the statement added, without giving further details. A CNF spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment.
The group – which represents the mainly Christian Chin minority in western Myanmar – signed a ceasefire with the Tatmadaw in 2012, and was one of eight ethnic armed groups that joined the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement in 2015.
In recent years its fighters have dwindled.
“The CNF has no real military strength, so this move is symbolic,” Richard Horsey, senior advisor on Myanmar to the International Crisis Group, told AFP.
“But [it is] nevertheless significant as CNF has been quite prominent in the peace process, due to its well respected political leaders in exile.”
Several of Myanmar’s ethnic armed groups have condemned the military coup and the use of violence against unarmed civilians.
Some are also providing shelter and even training to dissidents who flee into their territories.
But the more than 20 outfits have long distrusted the ethnic Bamar majority – including lawmakers affiliated with the NLD.
On Friday, the NUG released a video it said showed the first batch of trained fighters from its People’s Defence Force, formed to protect civilians and fight the junta, completing their training.
Around a hundred recruits were shown marching across flat ground surrounded by jungle. None appeared to be carrying weapons.
“Let all Myanmar people be freed from military slavery,” the recruits were heard shouting together.
More than 800 people have been killed by the military, according to local monitoring group the Assistance Association for Political Prsioners, though the Tatmadaw has given a much lower civilian toll.
The junta has classified the NUG and the People’s Defence Force as “terrorists”, meaning anyone speaking to them – including journalists – can be subjected to charges under counter-terrorism laws.
Coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing has justified his February 1 power grab by claiming electoral fraud in the November election, which was won by the NLD in a landslide.