Myanmar Junta Aims to Wipe Out Armed Resistance in Three Months

By The Irrawaddy 2 November 2021

Myanmar’s military rulers are confident they can wipe out armed civilian resistance against them in three months, after instructing commanders and all forces to annihilate People’s Defense Forces (PDFs)—guerrilla-style resistance groups that have been active locally across the country.

Last month, the junta’s second most influential figure, Vice Senior General Soe Win, issued an order to “find out and take action against the insurgents and PDF immediately” and “arrest all the people from their hideouts in villages.”

The areas affected by the order include Yangon, Sagaing and Magwe regions, and Chin and Kayah states, where months of hit-and-run attacks and ambushes by PDFs have inflicted significant casualties on the junta’s troops.

The Myanmar regime has been struggling to contain the civilian resistance sparked by the army’s deadly crackdowns on anti-junta protesters following the coup in February. At the same time, the army has been warring against some ethnic armed groups who oppose the coup and support the PDFs near the Chinese border, leaving China nervous about instability on the border.

In August, Chinese authorities sent a complaint letter to the Myanmar military after an artillery shell and gunfire from Myanmar struck the Chinese border town of Wanding in Yunnan Province on two occasions. The incidents occurred amid fierce fighting between regime troops and ethnic armed groups in northern Shan State.

In the letter, Chinese authorities said they were highly concerned about the incidents, describing them as breaches of the China-Myanmar border agreement. China also warned the regime that if stray bullets and artillery landed in China’s territory again, it would “make the necessary response”, as the lives and properties of Chinese civilians in border areas were threatened.

This time, according to informed sources in Naypyitaw, the Myanmar regime has assured Chinese security officials on the border that the fighting will not affect border stability, saying the military campaign against the PDFs would only take place in the interior of the country, and not along the frontier, and that the civilian resistance would be rooted out in three months. In other words, it is likely that the regime will focus more on civilian resistance fighters for some time, rather than ethnic armed groups.

With the rainy season coming to an end, the regime has since last month deployed thousands of troops in Chin State and Sagaing and Magwe regions in upper Myanmar. With its assurances to China of border stability and more troop mobilization upcountry, the regime seems determined to clear the areas in three months, as it said.

At the same time, there has been fighting on the ground nearly every day.
On Friday, regime troops attacked Thantlang in Chin State, where the Chinland Defense Force (CDF) and local PDFs are active. Junta shelling of the hill town resulted in a fire that burned down at least 160 of its 2,000 homes. The junta blamed local PDFs for the blaze.

The US has condemned the Myanmar junta’s horrific use of violence in Chin State and called for urgent international action to hold the Myanmar military accountable for its brutality.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a press statement that such brutal actions by the military regime against people, their homes and places of worship lay bare the junta’s complete disregard for the lives and welfare of civilians.

This week, the Kachin Independence Army, Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, Ta’ang National Liberation Army and Arakan Army all condemned the junta’s artillery strikes on Thantlang.

Salai Issac Khen, a former Chin State municipal minister under the ousted civilian National League for Democracy government, condemned the military’s shelling of Thantlang, saying that the regime must be held responsible for the horrific act.

Junta forces have also intensified their efforts to arrest PDF leaders, with several people detained in Yangon.

In late October, veteran Myanmar democracy activist Ko Kyaw Min Yu, better known as Ko Jimmy, one of the leaders of the 88 Generation Students Group, was arrested. He was suspected of having connections with PDFs and the shadow National Unity Government. Both have been branded as terrorist organizations by the junta.

For all their determination to wipe the PDFs out, it’s too early to gauge the success of their efforts, as they have sustained huge casualties on the ground. Recently, 85 regime soldiers were killed during clashes with local PDFs in three days in Sagaing.

Analysts said the regime is facing a new kind of armed conflict that the military is not prepared to counter, and that the junta is incapable of containing the growing insurgency and resistance.

The junta has suffered an increasing number of attacks from the PDFs across Myanmar, especially since the country’s parallel NUG declared war on the regime in September. Enjoying popular support at home and abroad, the civilian fighters subsequently purchased automatic rifles, sniper rifles, grenades and RPGs from several ethnic insurgent sources.

The NUG claimed that 768 regime soldiers were killed in September alone. The Irrawaddy has not been able to independently verify the number.

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