Amid numerous military defections, junta chief Min Aung Hlaing urged his personnel to maintain unity during his Armed Forces Day speech in Naypyitaw on Sunday.
“Unity within the organization is pivotal,” the regime leader reminded his subordinates. He said the armed forces are under domestic and international attack.
“Foreign invaders and self-interested political forces are trying to disintegrate our Tatmadaw [military] in various ways,” Min Aung Hlaing said. “I urge military personnel and their families to embrace comradeship and live in harmony.”
Min Aung Hlaing also called for those who oppose his rule to be wiped out and said there would be no negotiations with them.
Observers and defectors said the emphasis on unity on Armed Forces Day was significant and showed widening cracks within the military.
Since the coup in February last year, thousands of soldiers, including some battalion commanders, have left the military, amid growing armed resistance.
Australia is granting asylum to military defectors from Myanmar, sending shockwaves through the armed forces as interest in defection reportedly rises, even among senior officers.
Nyi Thuta, a former army captain, told The Irrawaddy that the junta chief’s speech showed internal divides were increasing, despite claims that nothing was happening within the armed forces.
Nyi Thuta abandoned the army after the coup last year and now helps fellow soldiers to defect through his Facebook page People’s Goal, formerly known as People’s Soldier.
He said soldiers are demoralized and increasingly considering defection.
“Min Aung Hlaing and his generals realize that if things continue like this the armed forces will survive for only a few years, which is why he pushed unity so hard,” he added.
Min Aung Hlaing called on his personnel to earn public support, saying they came from the people and should safeguard the lives and property of the public and assist in daily life. On Armed Forces Day last year, his forces killed more than 100 people, including five children, in 73 cities across the country in its bloodiest crackdown on peaceful protesters.
The junta has killed at least 1,707 people and arrested more than 12,000 citizens. More than 7,700 buildings, including hundreds of places of worship, have been burned down since the coup.
In a joint statement, 21 signatories, including the US and European Union, called on the international community to support the people against the regime.
They called for countries to stop selling arms to Myanmar, which enables the junta to kill civilians.
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