YANGON - Anti-coup protesters in Myanmar symbolically burned copies of the country's constitution Thursday as a group of deposed lawmakers announced a new civilian government to run counter to the ruling military junta.
The rebel government, dubbed the Committee for Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, is made up of members of deposed de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy who were elected in November but not allowed to take their seats after the military detained Suu Kyi and replaced the civilian government on Feb. 1.
The CRPH also announced a new federal constitution to replace the one drafted by the military in 2008, which brought democracy to Myanmar after five decades while still maintaining the army's power and influence in any civilian government. The CRPH-drafted constitution was written to meet the longstanding demands of Myanmar's regional ethnic groups, who have been fighting for decades for greater autonomy.
The junta's violent crackdown against pro-democracy opponents across Myanmar has expanded in recent days against ethnic rebels, who are siding with the protesters. The military launched airstrikes against ethnic Karen rebels in eastern Myanmar in response to rebel attacks on military and police stations. The airstrikes prompted thousands of people to flee through the jungle and over the border into neighboring Thailand.
The worsening situation prompted Christine Schraner Burgener, the United Nations special envoy for Myanmar, to warn the Security Council on Wednesday that "a bloodbath is imminent" and of an increasing "possibility of civil war" in the country if civilian rule is not restored.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a nongovernmental organization, estimates that 536 people have been killed by the junta since the peaceful protests began, including more than 100 protesters â€” many of them women and children â€” last Saturday during the annual Armed Forces Day celebration. More than 2,700 have been arrested, charged or sentenced.
The U.S. State Department has ordered all nonessential personnel and their family members to leave Myanmar as the military's bloody crackdown against anti-coup demonstrations continues.
Meanwhile, Reuters says Suu Kyi made another court appearance Thursday via video conferencing. Her lawyer, Min Min Soe, says no new charges were brought against the 75-year-old Nobel Peace laureate. Min Min Soe said he met with Suu Kyi on Wednesday via video conferencing for the first time since she was detained.
The online news service Khit Thit Media says the junta is preparing to charge Suu Kyi with treason, although there has been no official announcement.