Myanmar Junta Arming, Training Civilians as Losses, Defections Mount

By The Irrawaddy 18 January 2022

Myanmar’s junta has provided military training and weapons to hundreds of military supporters, members of the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and former soldiers in several cities as it struggles with a shortage of human resources.

The regime has been sustaining heavy casualties amid increasingly frequent resistance attacks, not only from battle-hardened ethnic armed groups but also from a newly spawned and widespread armed movement launched by young civilians who took up arms to wipe out military rule in the country, along with many soldiers—including some officers—who have deserted their units since the coup.

Amid the losses and defections, the regime has been recruiting, training and arming pro-military militia groups, widely known as Pyu Saw Htee, to bolster its manpower, especially since the civilian National Unity Government (NUG) declared a defensive war against the junta on Sept. 7.

Sources in Magwe Township of Magwe Region told The Irrawaddy that the junta gave 14 days of army training to around 100 military supporters including some USDP members and ex-soldiers last month.

The training covered the use of small arms and some heavy weapons, and basic military tactics.

In Meiktila of Mandalay Region, two training courses have been conducted in less than three months and nearly 200 people have participated. According to sources, similar military training was conducted in several cities in Sagaing, Bago, Mandalay regions recently.

Meiktila residents said a group trained and armed by the junta arrested a pro-democracy activist on Dec. 30 by force.

The junta-recruited and -armed militias cooperate with junta forces on patrolling cities, arresting pro-democracy activists, raiding resistance stronghold villages and fighting against resistance groups in Sagaing Region and elsewhere. They also appear to be targeting members and supporters of the National League for Democracy (NLD), vandalizing and torching shops and houses owned by them and, in some places, reportedly killing and arresting them.

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