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Myanmar’s military makes its annual parade of strength despite unprecedented battlefield losses

BANGKOK (AP) — The head of Myanmar’s ruling military council marked Armed Forces Day on Wednesday with a speech claiming that the nation’s youth were being tricked into supporting the resistance against army rule, and that ethnic armed groups allied with the resistance engage in drug trafficking, natural resources smuggling and illegal gambling.

Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing spoke in the capital, Naypyitaw, where thousands of military personnel paraded in an annual show of strength, even as the army has suffered a series of unprecedented battlefield defeats that have tarnished their once invincible reputation.

Min Aung Hlaing touched on familiar themes, urging the international community not to support the resistance forces, whom he blamed for disturbing the process for planned but not yet scheduled elections. Earlier this month, he told Russia’s ITAR-TASS news agency that elections might be held in parts of the country that are peaceful and stable.

Many Western nations have applied sanctions against Myanmar’s ruling generals because of their 2021 seizure of power and brutal suppression of opposition. Military offensives since then have displaced more than 2 million people, according to the United Nations.

Min Aung Hlaing said it is “disheartening to witness youths becoming scapegoats of insurgents, misled by false narrative propaganda through media sabotage.” He also accused unnamed ethnic armed groups of “destroying the path towards forming a union based on democratic values and federalism.”

The army in 2021 overthrew the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, whom it accused of winning the 2020 election through massive voter fraud, presenting what it said was evidence disputed by independent poll watching groups.