Branches of the People’s Defense Force (PDF) militia from a dozen different regions in Myanmar have formed an alliance to collectively take on the country’s junta, despite each group facing respective offensives since the military seized power seven months ago, members said Wednesday.
The PDF groups, which are mostly based in embattled Sagaing region and Chin state, but are also located in of Mandalay and Magway regions, as well as Kachin and other ethnic states, announced on Aug. 28 that they had allied to bolster their resistance to the military and told RFA’s Myanmar Service they would welcome additional militias into the fold.
“It means a stronger united force through which each group can help the others with whatever is needed,” said a member of the Nhalone-hla Hardcores, a group based in the seat of Mandalay’s Myingyan township.
“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’s military overthrew the democratically elected NLD government on Feb. 1, claiming the party had stolen the country’s November 2020 ballot through voter fraud. The junta has yet to provide evidence of its claims and has violently repressed anti-coup protests, killing at least 1,041 people and arresting 6,107 others, according to the Bangkok-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).
Amid nationwide turmoil, the military has stepped up offensives in remote parts of the country, triggering fierce battles with local PDF militias and some of the dozens of ethnic armies that control large swathes of territory along Myanmar’s periphery.
The alliance of a dozen PDF groups announced over the weekend expands on one formed by the Mindat PDF, which had been engaged in frequent clashes with the junta forces, the Kanpetlet Defense Force (KDF), the Chin National League—comprised of the Falam, Kalay and Kabaw PDFs—and the Zomi Federal Union—comprised of the Tedim and Tunzan PDFs—formed on Aug 24.
A spokesman for the Mindat PDF in Chin state told RFA that there had been several clashes with the junta troops throughout the month of August and said the military’s advantages in ammunition and manpower necessitated the merger.
“The main reason is to be able to help one another in case the whole country revolts against the junta at the same time … We can exchange information among ourselves as well as with the [shadow National Unity Government] NUG,” the spokesman said.
“But most of what we agreed to was our own decision. After several clashes, we were running out of weapons and ammunition while they became more powerful in strength as well as in weaponry. We were also struggling with manpower. 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.”
PDF groups in Chin state have been fighting with the military since mid-April and in Mindat township clashes took place as recently as Tuesday, a Chinland Defense Force member said.
“Our priority is not to get people hurt. We all have agreed to what we want as our ultimate goal—those in one area should rise up when another area is under pressure. Otherwise, that area might be wiped out,” he said.
“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.”
Call to surrender
Reports of the alliance came a day after junta spokesman Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun urged the PDFs to surrender and called on the public to provide information on the groups to assist in shutting them down.
“These are very serious and devastating acts of violence,” he told a press conference in the capital Naypyidaw. “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.”
It also came as Police Chief Kyaw Lin of the junta’s Ministry of Home Affairs warned that legal action has been taken against NUG, Parliament’s Pyidaungsu Hluttaw Committee of Representatives (CRPH), and PDFs under anti-terrorism laws and that arrest warrants were being sent to InterPol’s 194 member countries.
Political analyst Ye Tun, a former member of the Burmese Communist Party (BCP), told RFA Wednesday that no matter how many resistance groups are formed, only a good leader can lead them to victory against the military.
“Only by forming a single army under a unified military commander can the whole nation be victorious,” he said.
“The groups are currently fighting in a loose alliance through guerrilla warfare. They need a strong unified leader to become a formidable force.”
The NUG recently said it will soon announce a date for local PDFs to join in a “D-Day” military strike against the junta.
Likelihood of power transfer
Also on Wednesday, several key political parties expressed doubt about the military regime’s promise that it would hold a new election and transfer power to a civilian government within two years.
On Aug. 27, the junta’s deputy information minister announced during a press conference in Naypyidaw that preparation was “already underway … [to] transfer the power and government authority to the winning party of the new election according to democratic principles.”
However, representatives of the country’s top political parties were quick to dismiss the pledge.
Sai Leik, the general secretary of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), noted that the junta has reneged on its promises to transfer power to a civilian government in the past and said his party “doesn’t trust them this time either.”
A member of the NLD’s central executive committee who spoke on condition of anonymity told RFA that the junta is working to remove his party from politics altogether and would likely only hold elections if it is guaranteed to win them.
“They will purge the opposition either through [failure to contain] COVID-19, violence, or detention,” the NLD member said.
“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.”
Political analyst Ye Htun said that if the military holds an election without the NLD’s participation, the new government will lack the support of the public.
“Without the NLD’s participation, [the military] will never hold a free and fair election,” he said.
“Whichever party wins will have no legitimacy; this is for sure. There are an endless number of instabilities in the country. I think it is the best to allow NLD to participate in the election, instead of disbanding it.”
Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane and Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.
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