Myanmar’s military regime has moved to shut down online video games that celebrate—and help to fund—the country’s armed resistance movement.
In an order issued on Wednesday, the junta’s minister of border security, Col Win Tin Soe, declared a ban on games that simulate combat against regime forces by the opposition-led People’s Defence Force (PDF).
The order warned that legal action would be taken against those who have the games on their mobile phones and said that companies that advertise on the apps would be “exposed” by the regime.
Created by young Myanmar programmers as a means of supporting the anti-junta armed struggle, the games—with names like “PDF Hero,” “The PDF Game” and “End Game – Union” —have been immensely popular both inside the country and among Myanmar nationals living abroad.
The games allow players to target not only soldiers on the frontlines, but also top generals, including junta leader Min Aung Hlaing and Soe Win, the deputy prime minister of the regime’s caretaker government.
Players reload their weapons by watching advertisements, which in turn generate revenue for actual PDF fighters engaged in real-life combat.
The order, which Myanmar Now has seen, instructs local authorities around the country to inspect phones at security checkpoints and educate young people about the dangers of playing the games, which it said were being used to finance “terrorist organisations.”
Actual PDF fighters have also been used to help promote the games. On the Facebook page of one game developer, young members of the armed resistance movement can be seen engaging in virtual combat on their phones between real battles with regime forces on the ground.