Eight Myanmar army soldiers defect to Chinland Defence Force

The Chinland Defence Force (CDF) claims that there are now eight soldiers who have deserted the Myanmar army and joined their resistance group over the last two months. 

The CDF attributed the troops’ defection to the group’s offer of a financial reward and safe passage across the border or to elsewhere in Myanmar for those abandoning the junta’s armed forces. 

On September 16, the Hakha-based chapter of the CDF announced that any soldier surrendering their light weapons and ammunition would be granted 5m kyat (US$2,683). For heavy weapons and ammunition, the reward increased to 10m kyat ($5,367), and for state-owned vehicles, 50m kyat ($26,836). 

“We kept our end of the promise. We actually gave 5m kyat to those who came to us with weapons,” a CDF-Hakha spokesperson told Myanmar Now, adding that there had been three such defections. 

He said all three were ranked as privates and two were locals from Hakha, but he would not elaborate further.

Some officers also deserted the junta’s police force, he added, but most who joined the CDF did not bring their weapons with them. 

“We arranged safe transportation for them. We can arrange safe passage whether they want to go to their villages or to Mizoram in India. We take responsibility for them until they’ve arrived in a safe place,” the CDF-Hakha spokesperson said. 

The exact number of the police officers who have left their posts has not been disclosed.

A guerrilla group representing the Monywa People’s Defence Force and calling themselves “Thanmani and Members” released a statement on September 19 saying that a junta soldier who was on guard at the Myanma Economic Bank in Monywa surrendered himself and his weapons to them; he was transferred to the CDF in Hakha later that day.  

Soldiers are deployed during an anti-coup protest near the National League for Democracy headquarters in Yangon on February 15 (EPA)

A member of the anti-dictatorship Mindat People’s Administration Team said that there were five Myanmar army soldiers who had surrendered their weapons to the township’s CDF chapter since the announcement of a 5m kyat reward by the group in August. Their ranks were not disclosed. 

Some of those troops joined forces with the resistance after the National Unity Government’s September announcement declaring a nationwide armed revolt against the military council, urging soldiers to defect to the side of the people. 

However, a CDF-Mindat officer told Myanmar Now that the announcement had not yet caused mass defections in the area. 

“I can imagine that it is hard for them to desert. It’s especially hard for them to desert along with their weapons,” he said. 

Cpt Nyi Thuta, one of the first officers in Myanmar’s military to leave his post after the February 1 coup, told Myanmar Now that if soldiers flee with their weapons, it becomes easier to get caught. 

“It would be especially difficult if the soldier had to use public transportation. Apart from those at the front lines and those on security duty, many deserters have just pretended to go to the market when they’re in fact leaving,” he explained. 

The captain said he was encouraging others to leave the military and had been helping soldiers interested in defecting to contact the revolutionary forces. 

“These [offers] are a great chance for the soldiers who do not wish to fight against the civilians,” said Cpt Nyi Thuta said, referring to rewards like those promised by the CDF.

Cost of weapons

Tun Myat Aung, another captain who has abandoned the military, told Myanmar Now that a soldier typically is issued a rifle, 240 bullets, a grenade and a landmine.

A soldier who has been issued an assault rifle would have 400 bullets, and one who has a machine gun would have 1,500 larger bullets. 

The average soldier’s arms are worth between 1m and 1.5m kyat ($537 – $805), he explained, but the local defence forces often have to pay five times that for the same weaponry on the black market. 

According to the resistance forces, the shortage of weapons often means that deserting soldiers frequently cannot join the battles against the junta and must remain under watch. 

As many as 1,500 Myanmar army soldiers have deserted the military since the coup; many are privates and sergeants, but there are also more than 100 second lieutenants and majors who have been encouraging defection, according to officers who already left. 

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