‘Over 8,000’ soldiers and police officers have joined the Civil Disobedience Movement, says defector group 

More than 2,000 soldiers and 6,000 police officers have now joined the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) against the junta since the February 1 coup, according to a group helping defectors. 

Pyi Thu Yin Khwin, or People’s Embrace, said that it expected that number would continue to grow in the coming months, and that the defections were putting a strain on the junta’s armed forces

“We have seen that so many people inside the army are starting to lose faith in the military council after their repeated political and diplomatic failures before the international community,” said Captain Lin Htet Aung, a military defector and founding member of the group. 

“Therefore, it is safe to expect more of the army officers to join in our movement,” he added. 

Those who have left the Tatmadaw include at least 10 army majors and hundreds of lieutenants and captains, added the captain, who is helping army defectors to make contact with the underground National Unity Government (NUG).

Some defectors will take up arms against the junta, he added. 

Pyi Thu Yin Khwin has formed a committee under the NUG to help defectors secure accommodation and provide them security. 

On Monday the committee held a virtual conference attended by the NUG’s acting President Duwa Lashi La, as well as Prime Minister Mahn Win Khaing Than and other NUG leaders. An organisation called Pyi Thu Sitthar, or People’s Soldiers, was also in attendance.  

There are also a number of soldiers assisting the CDM from inside the military by sending intelligence, said Lin Htet Aung. There are over 100 such “watermelons” in the army, who are so called because they are considered green on the outside and red on the inside, with green representing the military and red representing the revolution. 

“There are small organisations inside that army that send us intel on the military’s administration systems and military actions,” said Captain Lin Htet Aung.

He added that it was important to keep close watch over defectors as there were also people in the CDM movement sending intel to the military. 

The defections, along with heavy casualties inflicted on soldiers by resistance fighters, are likely to be disrupting the sense of unity within the military, Lin Htet Aung said, as the departing soldiers create an uneven distribution of duties and the junta’s weakened administrative power means it is unable to properly enforce its will across the country. 

The military has suffered a disproportionately high number of casualties compared to resistance fighters, so much so that it has had to employ heavy weapons and helicopters against fighters armed with rudimentary weapons, sometimes little more than muskets.

The military has not commented openly on the defections from its ranks. 

Yee Mon, the NUG’s defence minister, urged junta soldiers to stop serving the generals and come to the side of the people whose taxes pay their salaries.

Resistance forces in Karenni and Chin have offered cash rewards to soldiers and police who defect. 

Estimates about the number of soldiers in the Myanmar military range from 250,000 to 400,000 across the army, navy and air forces. There were an estimated 90,000 police officers across the country before defections began. 

There are signs that the junta is feeling the strain from casualties and defections in some areas. In Katha Township, the military has tried to employ retired soldiers to act as reinforcements, according to a retired soldier based in the area.   

Brigadier General Phyo Thant, the commander of the Northwestern Command in Sagaing Region’s Monywa Township held a meeting with the retired soldiers in the township on October 5.

There are some 10,000 retired army officers and another two million retired soldiers of other ranks in Myanmar, according to data for August 2017 from the Retired Myanmar Soldiers website. 

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