Junta plans to bring fire department, Red Cross and Buddhist network into new ‘security force’

A leaked order recently issued by the military outlines plans to use members of the fire department and the Myanmar Red Cross in the junta’s ongoing battles against armed resistance.

The March 25 directive from the military council’s planning and finance ministry stated that military chief Min Aung Hlaing had delivered instructions to form a “public security force” made up of retired military officers and police, and members of militias, fire departments and the Red Cross. 

It said that the new force would need to work alongside existing security forces “to deal with terrorist actions.”

“These are things that are only done when different countries are at war, but they are employing such techniques to fight against their own people,” Myanmar legal expert Kyi Myint said. “They’re planning to go to war with the people of the country themselves.”

Members of fire departments have been called on by the military to participate in raids and serve as personnel at army checkpoints nationwide since the February 2021 coup. Like police officers and soldiers, they have been targeted in attacks by anti-junta resistance fighters for being members of the junta.

Firefighters were present alongside army troops who opened fire on inmates during a recent protest in Monywa Prison, BBC reported. 

The junta has been attempting to increase its manpower on the ground as they face attacks by revolutionary armed forces in Sagaing and Magway regions and Chin, Karen and Karenni states, and as officers from the military and police increasingly defect to the resistance. 

Prior to the coup, the military had long used the fire department and Red Cross—whose mandates are supposed to be for rescue and social welfare work—to promote the legitimacy of the armed forces. However, just before ex-President Thein Sein’s administration ended in 2016, the Red Cross stopped participating in public parades alongside the Myanmar army as well as sending personnel to work at security checkpoints alongside security forces. 

The “public security force” described in the March order also outlined the need to recruit local volunteers and call on members of political parties and organisations such as the more than 115-year-old Young Men’s Buddhist Association (YMBA) to participate in the initiative during the launch period, stating that these issues had been discussed during a meeting on March 3. 

No political parties were specifically named in the directive, but analysts have speculated that they are likely smaller entities with which the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) has formed alliances. 

Some 21 such parties, including the USDP, released a statement objecting to the US government’s March 21 designation of the military’s crimes in Rakhine State as amounting to a genocide of the Rohingya people. 

The YMBA was formed under British rule as an anti-colonial organisation, but in recent years has recognised army chief Min Aung Hlaing as a patron. 

Since the coup, photos of the YMBA running a training course on Buddhist principles inside a military compound went viral on social media. 

Junta-appointed information minister Maung Maung Ohn reportedly agreed to help with YMBA “organisational procedures” following a meeting with its chair Ye Tun in September last year. 

The military also issued a Police Force Law on March 25, allowing them to enlist police officers in battles nationwide against resistance forces.  

“The country is already in ruins and they’re still making it worse,” lawyer Kyi Myint told Myanmar Now. “The police only should have to deal with public security and law enforcement but they just want more people to fight in their wars.” 

Related Articles

Back to top button