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In Myanmar, Civil War Looms as a Dozen Militias Form Alliance to Overthrow Junta

Published: September 2, 2021
YANGON, MYANMAR - MARCH 28: An anti-coup protester aims an improvised weapon on March 28, 2021 in Yangon, Myanmar.. (Image: Stringer/Getty Images)

Militia from a dozen different regions of Myanmar have formed an alliance in an attempt to take on the country’s junta, heightening the threat of civil war in the embattled nation, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported.  

The twelve militia factions are branches of the People’s Defense Force (PDF) which are primarily based in Myanmar’s Sagaing region and Chin state but also hail from areas located in the Mandalay and Magway regions as well as Kachin.

The alliance announced on Aug. 28 that they had allied to bolster the resistance to the military and told RFA’s Myanmar service that they “would welcome additional militias into the fold.”

A member of the Nhalone-hla Hardcores, a group based out of Mandalay’s Myingyan township told RFA that the alliance “means a stronger united force through which each group can help the others with whatever is needed,” adding that, “Right now, we are 12 in a unified group. If other groups want to join us, our leaders will consult with them and decide whether to accept them or not.”

Myanmar has been rocked by protests and violence after the country’s military overthrew the democratically elected NLD government on Feb. 1 this year, with accusations that the governing party stole the country’s November 2020 election through voter fraud. 

No evidence of election irregularities have been presented by the ruling junta that has been violently suppressing anti-coup protesters which has resulted in the deaths of at least 1,041 people and the arrest of over 6,100 others. 

The alliance includes the Mindat PDF, which has been involved in several clashes with the junta in August, as well as the Kanpetlet Defense Force (KDF), the Chin National League — comprised of Falam, Kalay and Kabaw PDF’s — and the Zomi Federal Union — comprised of the Tedim and Tunzan PDFs — RFA reported. 

A spokesperson for the Mindat PDF told RFA that “The dictatorship will not be overthrown just by winning one or two clashes. We need to be well-prepared in resources and fight together as one.” adding that the junta has advantages in ammunition and manpower which inspired the merger of the PDFs. 

“We have to be ready at all times to help other groups as soon as we get information. Though the NUG is the main vehicle that connects us, it would make more sense if our resistance groups came together with the same desire to uproot this dictatorial junta.” the spokesperson said. 

Junta spokesman Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun called for the PDFs to surrender and asked the public to provide information on the groups to assist in weeding them out. 

At a press conference in the capital Naypyidaw he said, “These are very serious and devastating acts of violence,” adding that, “I don’t think any country has ever faced such degrading acts. We want to ask the public to oppose such extremists and terrorists in our nation.”

The junta has promised that it would hold an election and transfer power to a civilian government within two years but several key political parties expressed doubt that the junta would follow through. 

At an Aug, 27 press conference in Naypyidaw a deputy information minister speaking on behalf of the junta told a crowd of reporters that preparation was “already underway … [to] transfer the power and government authority to the winning party of the new election according to democratic principles.” 

But, some of the country’s top political representatives had their doubts stating that the junta has failed to fulfill promises to transfer power to a civilian government in the past.

Sai Leik, the general secretary of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) said that the junta “will purge the opposition either through [failure to contain] COVID-19, violence, or detention,” adding that, “They will only allow the candidates they want to participate and create a situation that will guarantee their victory. Only then, they will hold an election.”