Myanmar Headed For Long And Bloody Civil War As New Resistance Militia Steps Up Attacks On Military Junta

Myanmar Headed For Long And Bloody Civil War As New Resistance Militia Steps Up Attacks On Military JuntaPeople of a village in Myanmar protesting against the military dictatorship and its atrocities.
Snapshot
  • The new passouts of the Peoples Defence Force are expected to lead attacks on police, military and government installations including properties owned by senior members of the junta.

    People’s militias have been carrying out deadly attacks on the police and junta since last month, leaving many policemen and army soldiers dead.

Myanmar is headed for a long-drawn and bloody civil war, with the country’s shadow government — the National Unity Government of Myanmar (NUGM) — which is opposed to the military junta, unveiling its militia.

The NUGM released photos and videos of the passing-out parade of the first batch of its militia, designated the People’s Defence Force (PDF), last weekend.

The PDF’s formation was announced by the NUGM early this month. The NUGM comprises Myanmar’s principal political party — the National League for Democracy (NLD) — and representatives of other ethnic groups like the Kachins, Mons, Chins, Karens, Ta’angs and Kayans.

The NUGM had, earlier this month, released videos from its social media handles of PDF recruits undergoing training.

The NUGM says the PDF is the precursor of a federal union army that will include the many ethnic insurgent groups and will overthrow the junta (which seized power in Myanmar on February 1 this year).

The new passouts of the PDF are expected to lead attacks on police, military and government installations including properties owned by senior members of the junta.

People’s militias have been carrying out deadly attacks on the police and junta since last month, leaving many policemen and army soldiers dead.

Army camps and police posts have been attacked and overrun by ethnic insurgent groups in the western and northern areas of the country where the military (called the ‘Tatmadaw’) does not exercise much control.

Fierce fighting has broken out between Karen and Kachin insurgent forces with the junta carrying out air strikes on even civilian targets and driving tens of thousands of people to safe havens, including neighbouring Thailand.

Some ethnic insurgent groups, including the Karen National Union (KNU), have given refuge and military training to pro-democracy activists who have fled central and southwestern parts of the country where the junta’s hold is strong.

The brutal crackdown by the junta on unarmed civilians since early February, in which nearly 1,000 people have reportedly lost their lives, has triggered formation of citizens’ militias which have carried out deadly but uncoordinated, lone wolf-type attacks on government targets.

The PDF, say Myanmar experts, is likely to unify insurgent groups and civilian militia opposed to the junta and launch coordinated and deadly attacks on police and military targets across the country.

That will only invite more brutal repression by the junta and, thus, more bloodshed. But the PDF would do well, say defence experts who know the ground situation in Myanmar, to hold back for some more time till it gains more strength and support.

The junta has about 3.5 lakh troops on the ground while the combined strength of all the ethnic insurgent groups who are likely to join forces with the PDF won’t be more than 75,000.

Also, the Tatmadaw soldiers are well armed and have a huge stock of arms and ammunition. The same is not the case with the insurgent groups and the PDF.

However, well-planned attacks on police and military targets in the western, northern and southeastern parts of the country where the Tatmadaw’s hold is weak can unnerve the junta.

Lone-wolf type attacks in urban areas of central, southern and southeastern parts of the country where the junta is strong can also weaken the morale of the junta’s soldiers and lead to loss of face for the Tatmadaw.

The NUGM is also planning to scale up mass protests in urban areas across the country in order to draw the attention of the international community, especially the ASEAN countries, on the plight of the people of the country.

The junta and the country’s uniformed forces are, however, on the defensive now (read this) because of an increasing number of attacks on them.

Last Friday (May 28), a temporary base of the junta in Yangon was attacked with bombs by civilian militia. Three soldiers are reported to have been killed. Police and military posts in Yangon and other cities have come under deadly attacks by civilian resistance forces.

The recent recovery of 2,000 homemade bombs and an unspecified number of arms and ammunition from civilian resistance fighters in Yangon has unnerved the junta and also exposed the determination of the anti-junta activists to fight the Tatmadaw.

In what can be seen as an indication of more attacks on government targets, civilian resistance groups have asked people to venture out as little as possible and avoid going into government buildings and police stations, or venturing close to troops and policemen.

The Tatmadaw is learnt to have formed and armed groups of pro-junta civilians to spy on and fight the civilian resistance groups. The pro-junta groups, called ‘’Pyu Saw Htee’, have been accused of attacking civilians and raiding and looting homes.

All these only point to the perilous and bloody civil war that Myanmar is headed to. Myanmar watchers say that as fighting between the junta and anti-junta forces become fiercer in the coming months, the country will suffer a lot more bloodshed and civilian casualties.

Jaideep Mazumdar is an associate editor at Swarajya.

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