Hundreds apply for firearms licenses days after introduction of new policy

A new weapons policy introduced by Myanmar’s junta late last month has resulted in a flood of applications for firearms licenses, according to police officials.

Earlier this week, it was learned that the regime’s Ministry of Home Affairs approved new rules on January 31 to allow members of the public who support the military council to legally acquire and possess weapons.

Since then, hundreds of applications have been submitted to the ministry, a police lieutenant familiar with the situation told Myanmar Now.

“The entire office has been extremely busy, running procedures for the weapons ownership licenses,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Although the regime has only recently begun to authorise widespread gun ownership, it has been arming its supporters—including retired army personnel, members of the military’s proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), and pro-junta militias—since it seized power two years ago.

Under the new regulations, gun licenses can now be officially issued to both individuals and organisations that meet certain requirements.

Pyu Saw Htee members receive firearms at the conference hall of the general administration office in Mandalay’s Maha Aungmyay Township on July 30, 2022 (MDY Images/ Facebook)

In the case of civil servants and soldiers, permission must be sought from their respective departments. Others must request recommendation letters from their local police station or village/ward administration team.

In addition to licenses, which are required for pistols, hunting rifles and airsoft guns, as well as other light firearms, permits for more high-powered weapons, such as army-grade rifles and submachine guns, are also available under the new rules.

Those who are granted permits to possess heavy weapons must also agree to return them to the nearest township police station when the military council deems that it is no longer necessary for civilians to have them.

According to Kyi Myint, a senior lawyer and regime critic, the new policy reflects the growing desperation of the junta, which has been unable to secure its grip on power since staging a coup in February 2021.

He noted that the regime continues to rely heavily on military-backed Pyu Saw Htee militias in resistance strongholds, and is now preparing to put others on the frontline of the conflict for control of the country.

“They know they can’t win anymore. That’s why they’re asking the Pyu Saw Htee, ultranationalists, soldiers in retirement and even monks to take up arms and protect them,” he said.

The new regulations come amid rumours that youth members of the USDP have been receiving military training as part of the junta’s effort to bolster its defences. According to sources close to the party, plans are also in place to arm these new recruits.

Myanmar Now was unable to confirm the accuracy of reports regarding the military council’s provision of weapons to its supporters.

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