Following Tuesday morning’s declaration of war against the junta by the National Unity Government (NUG), Myanmar Now spoke to members and allies of the anti-dictatorship movement about what could await the resistance forces in confronting a military that both outnumbers and outguns them.
The NUG’s announcement came seven days and seven months after Myanmar’s February 1 coup, during which time the military council killed more than 1,000 people and jailed several thousand opponents and dissidents.
The declaration was also made one week before the opening of the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York on September 14. The UN Credentials Committee is expected to be asked to make a decision regarding who will occupy Myanmar’s seat at the General Assembly—NUG-allied Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun, who was appointed by the ousted National League for Democracy (NLD) government, or a junta-appointed representative.
Junta spokesperson Gen Zaw Min Tun told the pro-military People Media on Tuesday that he believed the NUG’s announcement was intended to coincide with the opening of the General Assembly.
He dismissed the NUG’s call to arms, referring to them as “extremists.”
“They are inciting [others] to commit more violence and for the public to become terrified and for instability,” the general was quoted as saying, telling the public that they “do not need to worry.”
The NUG was formed in April with the support of the Committee Representing the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, which is made up of elected lawmakers who were unable to take their seats in parliament.
Recognising the NUG as Myanmar’s legitimate government, many members of the Myanmar public showed support for the administration’s call to war against the junta, which they aim to topple.
Dr. Miemie Winn Byrd, retired US army officer
“Between firepower and the people power, the latter has proven to be more important during a battle,” Dr. Miemie Winn Byrd, a Burmese-American retired lieutenant colonel who served nearly three decades in the US army, told Myanmar Now.
She speculated that the Myanmar military, despite possessing advanced weaponry, is struggling due to the momentum brought on by the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM), including the securing of public trust, new recruits, and international support.
“People are already questioning the integrity of the military leaders. This factor is very important in this war. It would be very hard for them to get anything done because no one is believing anything they say,” Dr. Byrd continued.
While rumours of Tuesday’s NUG announcement had been circulating online for weeks, Dr. Miemie Win Byrd said that the resistance would need to be tight-lipped about its plans regarding the revolution in order for their actions to have maximum impact.
“We should be very careful so as not to reveal our plans to the opponent, as it would do nothing but make them more prepared to retaliate against our attacks,” she said. “When the weak goes against the strong, their best chance is to ambush them when the opponent is not expecting it. If information leaks [online], it would help prepare the enemy to respond to the ambush.”
Cpn Lin Htet Aung, Myanmar military defector
Cpn Lin Htet Aung, a Myanmar army officer who took part in the CDM by defecting and joined the resistance, told Myanmar Now that he believes many soldiers still serving in the junta’s armed forces are opposed to the coup, and more will defect when the war begins.
“It is now high time that the junta soldiers pick the side of the people and disobey the dictators. Failing to do so will bring nothing but misfortune to their lives,” he said. “It has now become clear what’s right and what’s wrong. Be on the right side of history. Come to the people’s side in whatever way that you can.”
Col Naw Bu, KIA
Col Naw Bu, the spokesperson for the Kachin Independence Army (KIA)—which has been engaging in clashes with the junta’s armed forces in the northern part of the country—welcomed the NUG’s call to arms, noting that Kachin forces had already been fighting against the military for 60 years.
“The people need to take responsibility and contribute however they can if we want to end the dictatorship led by Min Aung Hlaing. We also need to be very careful regarding our own security. These are the two responsibilities of the people,” the colonel said.
Col Naw Bu declined to comment on the extent of communication between the KIA and the NUG.
Khu Daniel, KNPP
Khu Daniel, Secretary (1) of the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP)—whose armed wing, the Karenni Army, has been fighting against the junta forces in ethnic Karenni territory—said that Tuesday’s declaration signified the start of more intensified resistance to the military council by the NUG and their allied forces.
“Now that the official announcement is here, everyone needs to actually participate in the process. Everyone, including the civil servants that are still going to work. This can end only if everyone takes part in it,” he said.
Political analyst, Yangon
A Yangon-based political analyst pointed out that because of the sacrifices they have made, the public have high expectations of the NUG and its forces and expect the complete overthrow of the military dictatorship.
“If they don’t manage to give us a strong start, the people will start losing trust in the NUG and this could lead to a decrease in the people’s support in the future,” the analyst said.