Is Yangon’s Resistance Against Myanmar Regime Still Strong?

By The Irrawaddy 10 December 2021

Since the former National League for Democracy lawmaker U Phyo Zeya Thaw, who has been accused of masterminding deadly attacks on regime targets in Yangon, was arrested along with weapons by Myanmar’s junta in November, observers have been asking if guerilla resistance has failed in the city.

His arrest came a month after veteran democracy activist Ko Jimmy, one of the leaders of the ’88 Generation Students Group, was arrested with weapons and ammunition in Yangon.

The regime has accused U Phyo Zeya Thaw, 40, of supporting civilian resistance forces and orchestrating 178 explosions and 36 fatal attacks on junta targets in Yangon. It detained 293 people in follow-up arrests.

Junta sources say the security forces have controlled 70 percent of guerilla warfare in Yangon since the arrests and now consider resistance in the city to have been broken.

A resistance source in Yangon told The Irrawaddy: “Guerilla resistance is not failing. There is no reason that it will fail. The revolution will go on.”

However, there have been few attacks on junta targets since U Phyo Zeya Thaw’s arrest.

Junta soldiers have increasingly been emerging from their sandbag bunkers. On Dec. 5, protesters were crushed to death by a regime truck which rammed an anti-regime protest in Yangon.

But guerilla resistance continues in the commercial capital. On Thursday resistance fighters targeted a South Okkalapa police station.

Junta media reported that U Phyo Zeya Thaw was arrested in Dagon Seikkan Township on Nov. 18, 2021.

The arrests of U Phyo Zeya Thaw and hundreds of others caused chaos in Yangon’s war against the regime, forcing resistance groups to change their structures and missions, relocate bases, rebuild networks and set new targets.

The arrest of prominent figures came as a mental blow to groups across Myanmar, according to resistance sources.

“We have had to abort many missions and lost support to carry out further attacks. This has made it difficult to continue our work and we have had to change our entire framework,” said a guerilla fighter in Yangon.

As part of its psychological warfare against revolutionary groups and to mislead the international community about the armed resistance, the regime exaggerated the amount of seized weapons and dragged ordinary civilians into the urban war, said a Yangon-based guerilla group.

“We have not ceased our operations. We are just taking time to make some adjustments,” said a guerilla fighter from Yangon.

Groups said large operations are still underway and that only a few fighters have fled to rebel-held territory.

A source said nearly half of resistance fighters may have been detained but recruits are ready to replace them and new weapons continue to arrive.

Many groups have been reviewing their operations since the arrests.

U Phyo Zeya Thaw and Ko Jimmy were too recognizable and had too little training to be effective underground rebels, said a military analyst.

Junta media reported that weapons were seized from U Phyo Zeya Thaw’s hideout and arms cache in Thingangyun Township.

The former parliamentarian’s hideout and arms cache were too easy to locate and there were too many information leaks, the source said.

Posting videos of attacks on junta targets on social media made it easy for the regime to trace attackers and prevent further attacks, the analyst added.

A political observer said: “I don’t think Ko Jimmy would reveal all the names in a single day. There might have already been an information leak before his arrest.”

Files leaked after U Phyo Zeya Thaw’s arrest suggest the ex-lawmaker appeared to have been careless in storing information and reportedly did not delete his phone’s call history and text messages.

A technician from Yangon People’s Defense Force told The Irrawaddy: “Data should be prepared and stored online. Nothing should be left on a computer. It is a big loss that they could arrest all those people from one laptop.”

Former Major Aung Ling Htut, who served in military intelligence under previous regimes, posted on Facebook that the resistance groups should only give information to those who need it and units should be strictly segregated.

A civilian resistance fighter from Sagaing Region called on those detained not to reveal the identities of their comrades during torture.

“Comrades must remain loyal, despite the pain,” they said.

Observers will be watching to see if Yangon’s resistance can recover and push junta forces back inside their sandbag bunkers in the months to come.

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