As the anti-junta People’s Defence Force (PDF) gains strength in Bago, the military has intensified efforts to form and arm allied militias in the region’s Taungoo and Pyay townships to counter support for the resistance movement.
The Myanmar Army held ceremonies on Tuesday and Wednesday in which they gifted weapons to the groups, known as Pyu Saw Htee. Lt-Gen Hpone Myat, of the office of the army commander-in-chief, attended the events, according to Thursday reports in junta-controlled newspapers.
Photos of the ceremonies indicated that some 200 militia members were given rifles and other arms that had been previously used by the military.
The junta’s chief minister for Bago Region will reportedly supply the Pyu Saw Htee groups with food and funds, as well. The military currently gives 120,000 kyat (US$57) and food rations to other members of the militia. Local sources told Myanmar Now that the newly formed chapters in Taungoo and Pyay will receive the same amount.
Wai Yan, the spokesperson for the Bago Region PDF, which fights under the publicly mandated National Unity Government, said he was not concerned about the newly formed militia chapters.
“We have nothing to worry about from our side, militarily speaking. It’s [the junta] that has to bribe people for their support,” he explained
Military defector Min Yan Aung, a second lieutenant, told Myanmar Now that the Pyu Saw Htee’s primary activities involved collecting local intelligence for the junta and serving as reinforcements during raids in the area. He served alongside the militia in Sagaing Region’s Kanbalu Township for three months before deserting the army in June.
“The Pyu Saw Htee are robbing people along with the junta soldiers,” he said, adding that the military had promised militia members that they would not be used as porters or human shields during these operations.
This month, several junta troops, including column commanders, have been killed in the PDF’s ambushes of their bases in the region’s townships of Bago, Yedashe, Gyobingauk, Minhla and Taungoo. In January, the local PDF also assassinated the Yangon-based military intelligence officer Maj Than Htut near Taungoo on the highway connecting Yangon with Mandalay.
Taungoo is strategically located just over 110km from the junta capital of Naypyitaw.