Myanmar junta detains prominent Mandalay-based lawyer representing ousted NLD chief minister

The junta will oppose the ongoing national armed resistance to its coup council through “force of the people”, a military spokesman said at a press conference on Wednesday.

The reference, made by General Zaw Min Tun, was to a plan to create armed militias as part of a “public security system” to support junta forces in their fight against guerrilla groups, including including the People’s Defense Forces (PDF) under the National Unity Government. It would rely on the participation of pro-military civilians, as well as soldiers, police and security units, the spokesperson said.

“Militias can be formed in a legal manner if necessary to provide security to an area or region,” Gen. Zaw Min Tun said, citing a provision of the 2008 constitution drafted by the military, which has long been widely criticized as entrenching the military’s role in politics.

Article 340 of the charter states that the army has “the power to administer the participation of all the people in the security and defense of the Union”.

“The strategy of the people’s militia will be carried out under the direction of the defense services”, says the Constitution.

Since the military staged a coup in February 2021, the Burmese public has resisted military rule, with many political opponents and anti-junta forces declaring the controversial 2008 Constitution void.

Analyst Than Soe Naing told Myanmar Now that the move towards formalizing the militias suggests the military is weakening.

“Junta forces are facing unprecedented armed resistance across the country in at least three to four states and three regions, and are currently facing a shortage of manpower. That could be why they want to use civilians,” he said.

“Soldiers only wage junta wars because they are ordered to, not because they believe in their cause,” he continued. “Forcing the public to take responsibility for ‘people’s security’ will only lead to the military making more enemies.”

Than Soe Naing dismissed claims that these new militias would have popular support, concluding that they would be “unsuccessful”.

Over the past year, the military council has supported and trained militias in northwestern and central Myanmar, particularly in the Sagaing region, where resistance forces remain strong. These groups, known locally as Pyu Saw Htee, were seen by locals accompanying junta troops on raids on villages and in battles against guerrilla forces.

According to leaked documents, Myat Kyaw, the junta-appointed chief minister for Sagaing, told a March meeting in Naypyitaw that the army had armed 77 such groups with more than 2,000 weapons.

In a NUG statement released on Wednesday, the shadow government confirmed that the military had provided weapons and trained the Pyu Saw Htee, whose members they accused of “killing and robbing civilians, burning villages, violating human rights man, pitting civilians against each other”. another and fight the PDF and other revolutionary forces.

The administration called on members of these militias to surrender with their weapons “before it is too late”.

A leaked March 25 order outlined a plan by coup leader Min Aung Hlaing to train public security forces made up of members of the fire brigade, the Myanmar Red Cross Society, the Buddhist Young Men’s Association and several political parties.

The law on police forces issued the same day allowed the junta to conscript police officers into frontline battles against resistance forces.

Another pro-military force, Thway Thauk – meaning “blood-sworn” – recently surfaced in Mandalay, vowing to “seek revenge” on supporters of the ousted National League for Democracy government and their families. .

General Zaw Min Tun confirmed the existence of the group but did not comment further on its membership or support, stating that guerrilla attacks by forces loyal to the NUG were done to “deal with the consequences” of their actions.

Jon J. Epps