Junta to counter armed resistance with ‘public’ militias, Myanmar military spokesperson says

The junta will counter ongoing nationwide armed resistance to its coup council through the “force of the people,” a military spokesperson said in a press conference on Wednesday. 

The reference, made by Gen Zaw Min Tun, was to a plan to create arm militias under a “public security system” to support the junta’s forces in their fight against guerrilla groups including the People’s Defence Forces (PDFs) under the National Unity Government. It would rely on the participation of pro-military civilians, as well as soldiers, police and security units, the spokesperson stated. 

“Militias can be formed in a legal manner if it is required to ensure the security of an area or a region,” Gen Zaw Min Tun said, citing a provision in the military-drafted 2008 Constitution, which has long been widely criticised as entrenching the army’s role in politics.

Section 340 of the charter states that the military has “the authority to administer the participation of the entire people in the Security and Defence of the Union.”

“The strategy of the people’s militia shall be carried out under the leadership of the Defence Services,” the Constitution says. 

Since the military staged a coup in February 2021, the Myanmar public has been resisting army rule, with many political opponents and anti-junta forces declaring the highly controversial 2008 Constitution void. 

Analyst Than Soe Naing told Myanmar Now that the move toward the formalisation of militias suggested that the military was weakening. 

“The junta forces are facing unprecedented armed resistance across the country in at least three to four states and in three regions, and are currently facing a shortage of manpower. That could be the reason that they want to use civilians,” he said. 

“Soldiers are only fighting the junta’s wars because they have been ordered to do so, not because they believe in their cause,” he continued. “Forcing the public to take responsibility for ‘people’s security’ will only result in the military making more enemies.”

Than Soe Naing dismissed claims that these new militias would have popular support, concluding that they would be “unsuccessful.”

Over the past year the military council has been supporting and forming militias in northwestern and central Myanmar, particularly in Sagaing Region, where resistance forces remain strong. These groups, known locally as Pyu Saw Htee, have been seen by locals accompanying junta troops on village raids and in battles against guerrilla forces. 

According to leaked records, Myat Kyaw, the junta-appointed chief minister for Sagaing, said in a March meeting in Naypyitaw that the military had armed 77 such groups with more than 2,000 weapons. 

In an NUG statement released on Wednesday, the shadow government confirmed that the military has been providing guns and training to the Pyu Saw Htee, whose members they accused of “killing and robbing civilians, torching villages, violating human rights, pitching the civilians against each other and fighting the PDF and other revolutionary forces.”

The administration called on members of these militias to surrender with their weapons “before it is too late.” 

A leaked order from March 25 described a plan by coup leader Min Aung Hlaing to form public security forces made up of members of the fire departments, the Myanmar Red Cross, the Young Men’s Buddhist Association and several political parties. 

The Police Force Law issued on the same day enabled the junta to enlist police officers in frontline battles against resistance forces. 

Another pro-military force, Thway Thauk—meaning “blood-sworn”—recently surfaced in Mandalay, vowing to “seek revenge” against supporters of the ousted National League for Democracy government and their families. 

Gen Zaw Min Tun confirmed the existence of the group but did not comment further on its membership or backing, stating that guerrilla attacks by forces loyal to the NUG were being made to “face the consequences” of their actions. 

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