Myanmar junta leader inaugurates armed coastguard

The Southeast Asian country has been mired in crisis since the army ousted Aung San Suu Kyi's government in February, sparking mass protests and a bloody crackdown.

A soldier stands guard in City Hall in Yangon on 1 February 2021, after Myanmar's military seized power in a bloodless coup on Monday, detaining democratically elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi as it imposed a one-year state of emergency. Picture: AFP

YANGON - Myanmar's junta chief announced the formation of a new military coastguard on Wednesday, made up of four armed vessels officials said would improve the nation's law enforcement capabilities.

The Southeast Asian country has been mired in crisis since the army ousted Aung San Suu Kyi's government in February, sparking mass protests and a bloody crackdown.

Sporadic attacks and reprisals continue, with military officials confirming four intelligence officers had been wounded Tuesday in a bomb blast in the capital Naypyidaw.

Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing appeared at a dock south of commercial capital Yangon to inaugurate the coastguard -- a rare appearance in front of the foreign press since seizing power.

The four armed vessels -- previously operated by Myanmar's navy -- include a 47-metre "missile attack craft," said a naval officer, who did not want to be named.

Their duties would include "law enforcement... patrolling and search and rescue," he said, without giving details, adding that the force would remain under "navy guidance" for now.

Myanmar's military has lavished tens of millions of dollars on the latest lethal hardware in recent years, leaning on allies Russia and China, as part of a strategy to become a first-class force.

More than 1,100 civilians have been killed and over 8,000 arrested since the putsch, according to a local monitoring group.

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