Myanmar’s coup has opened an unexpected window of opportunity for the various ethnic rebel outfits, which have no loyalty to either the junta or to deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi, but could together pose a threat to the army’s rule. The country has been in turmoil since the military ousted Suu Kyi in February, crushing a 10-year experiment with democracy that had been enthusiastically embraced by the dominant Bamar ethnicity. But for many ethnic minorities, her administration was more foe than friend. While each ethnic armed group has its own demands, all want a version of federalism, giving them at least some measure of self-governance. Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) once offered them that in exchange for electoral support. “The Bamar majority have given such a promise from time to time, without it materialising,” Khu Oo Reh of the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), told AFP. “It was just words.” Despite their deep-seated distrust of the NLD, several groups have condemned the putsch and the junta’s use of violence — including killing more than 700 civilians — to quell the subsequent uprising. At least three groups in Myanmar’s east, including the KNPP, are sheltering thousands of anti-junta dissidents. The anti-coup movement is now watching closely to see if the rebels will harden their opposition against the junta. Thant Myint-U, author of “The Hidden History of Burma”, said the current moment could prove an opportunity for these groups to press for federalism. “Their actions over these coming months may have an outsize impact in what’s still an incredibly fluid situation,” the historian told AFP. “The seven-to-eight most powerful ethnic armed organisations now hold greater sway over Myanmar’s future than any time since independence.” World’s longest civil war The end of British colonial rule in 1948 left a complex patchwork of cultural, ethnic and linguistic groups awkwardly sharing the new state of Myanmar. A messy struggle over autonomy, control of lucrative drug production and natural resources has pitted more than 20 different groups against each other — among them the Bamar-majority military. The multi-faceted conflict has spanned seven decades, and been described as the world’s longest-running civil war. The military — which has never been under civilian rule — sought to dampen the conflicts with strategic ceasefires, effectively reaching a detente with some of the rebel groups. But in the wake of the coup, those ceasefires have begun to fray.