Kayan Township hit by wave of resignations, as junta struggles to retain control

Myanmar’s military junta appears to be losing its grip over Yangon Region’s Kayan Township, as local administrators continue to resign en masse over threats from anti-regime forces.

The township, which is located just east of the country’s largest city, has seen a wave of resignations since early October, when the local People’s Defence Force (PDF) gave junta-appointed administrators 15 days to quit before they faced reprisals.

In an interview with Myanmar Now, the leader of PDF-Kayan said that virtually every ward and village administrator in the township had quit by the deadline.

According to the Kayan Channel, a Facebook page created to track developments in the township, some 60 administrators have quit so far, roughly half of them citing death threats as their reason for leaving. 

Kayan Township has 13 urban wards and 53 village tracts, each of which has an administrator responsible for enforcing household registration rules and other regulations used by the junta to maintain control over local populations.

While the shadow National Unity Government (NUG) has said that it does not condone attacks on civilians serving in administrative positions, it warned that “legal action” would be taken against regime collaborators once civilian rule has been re-established.

It also said that administrators actively assisting the junta in its war on the country’s people could face “military action” from resistance forces.

“Some administrators are directly involved in the commission of the junta’s military actions, and so they can, under international law, be targeted for military action themselves,” Naing Htoo Aung, the NUG’s defence secretary, told Myanmar Now in a recent interview.

A map of Kayan Township (Google Maps)

The PDF-Kayan leader, who declined to reveal his identity, said that the group regarded anyone working for the regime in an official capacity as a “traitor” and therefore a fair target. 

“We will regard them as traitors if they continue to work under the military council and there is only one way to go for traitors,” he said.

‘People’s administration’

In September, the junta released a statement claiming that 102 local administrators had been assassinated nationwide as of the end of August. According to the latest figures compiled by Myanmar Now, that number currently stands at 110.

In addition to administrators, other individuals, including former military officers and members of ultranationalist groups and the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party, have all been targeted by resistance forces.

Besides Kayan Township, other areas, notably in Sagaing and Magway regions, have also seen mass resignations due to this campaign against anyone deemed to be a supporter of the military. 

So far, however, only the PDF-Kayan has claimed victory in its efforts to disrupt the junta’s control over local government functions.

“Although the military has sent one or two replacements, I think it’s safe to say that the ward/village government mechanism has completely stopped,” said the leader of the group, which in mid-September also carried out an attack on military units stationed at the township stadium.

On October 12, the PDF-Kayan announced plans to form a temporary “people’s administration team” in collaboration with the NUG. 

Resignation letters submitted by two ward administrators in Kayan Township

Although no details were released, it is believed that the new team will consist of PDF members, civil servants who have joined the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM), activists, and others involved in the effort to restore civilian rule.

In response, on October 17 the junta sent Col. Win Tint, Yangon Region’s minister for border affairs and security, to Kayan Township to meet with local administrators.

Since then, there has been a notable increase in security measures, according to local residents.

“We keep hearing about people getting arrested in villages. Even in town, we can see military vehicles on patrol,” said one local who spoke to Myanmar Now on condition of anonymity.

Despite these efforts, however, it is believed that most or all of the roughly 30 administrators who spoke to Win Tint have since resigned.

Snowball effect

In an effort to reclaim control over local administration, the regime has reportedly urged some individuals to perform administrative duties “discreetly”, according to the PDF-Kayan leader. 

One task they have been asked to carry out is the implementation of a system that requires locals to show “recommendation letters” from the authorities if they wish to leave their local area. 

However, due to the lack of local administrators, few people are able to obtain the letters, making travel within the township extremely restrictive, according to residents.

“We were stopped by the military council because we didn’t have a recommendation letter. They didn’t let us go even when we showed them our ID cards. We told them that there was no township administrator in our township and they still didn’t let us go,” said one Kayan local.

Meanwhile, the PDF-Kayan leader said that he hoped to model the new people’s administration team on a similar setup in Kayah (Karenni) State, where some 300 police officers have joined the CDM and created an entirely new police force.

“We can’t achieve this entirely on our own. We would like administrators from other townships in Yangon Region to follow the example of Kayan and resign from their jobs. If only one township takes part in this movement, the regime will focus its attacks on that township alone,” he said.

Col. Win TInt, Yangon Region’s minister for border affairs and security, attends a meeting in Kayan Township on October 17

There is some evidence to suggest that other townships are heeding this call. In neighbouring Thongwa Township, there have been reports of as many as 60 resignations by local administrators.

The NUG is hopeful that this will snowball into a much larger trend that could leave the regime powerless to govern the country, even with massive military might at its disposal.

“The administrators are the most basic components of the country’s government. Without them, the junta’s government mechanism could come to a grinding halt,” said NUG defence secretary Naing Htoo Aung.

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