A prominent rebel group in eastern Myanmar yesterday appealed to other ethnic armies to unite against the military, as the country enters its fourth month under a junta regime.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi was deposed in a February 1 coup, triggering a mass uprising across the country that killed more than 750 people.
Security forces yesterday opened fire on some of the biggest protests against military rule in days on yesterday killing seven people, media reported.
The protests, after a spell of dwindling crowds and what appeared to be more restraint by the security forces, were coordinated with demonstrations in Myanmar communities around the world to mark what organisers called "the global Myanmar spring revolution".
As security forces have deployed deadly violence against civilians to suppress a persistent anti-junta movement, some of Myanmar's myriad ethnic armies have spoken out against the military.
Among the most prominent opponents is the Karen National Union (KNU), which has admitted offering shelter to fleeing dissidents in the territory they control along Myanmar's eastern border.
Clashes have escalated in Karen state between the KNU's fighters and the military. Yesterday -- after five days of air raids by military -- the vice chief of staff for the KNU's armed wing wrote an open letter calling for all ethnic Karen fighters to unite, regardless of their loyalties.
"Never has there been such a great opportunity during the 70-plus years of revolution. Take advantage of this and fight against the Burmese military dictatorship," said Lieutenant General Baw Kyaw Heh.
"In our generation, let us stand united... to escape the military dictatorship."
Baw Kyaw Heh also called for unity among ethnic Karen fighters in the Border Guards Forces (BGF) -- a subdivision of Myanmar's military made up of former ethnic insurgents.
Myanmar has more than 20 ethnic rebel groups, many of whom hold territories in the country's border regions. A messy struggle over autonomy, control of drug production and natural resources has long pitted them against each other and the military.