Myanmar Junta Chief Vows to Defeat Shadow Govt and Allied EAOs for Supporting Resistance

By The Irrawaddy 27 March 2023

Myanmar junta chief Min Aung Hlaing said on Monday that he would take decisive action against the country’s parallel National Unity Government (NUG) and its allied ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) to thwart their growing attempts to topple his regime.

In his speech to troops at the annual parade in celebration of Armed Forces Day in Myanmar’s capital Naypyitaw, the junta boss said the NUG was a political organization formed to engage in acts of terror.

“Some EAOs that have been supporting the NUG and [its armed wing] the People’s Defense Forces [PDFs] are organizations trying to ruin the country,” he added.

It was the first time Min Aung Hlaing has mentioned the NUG and the PDFs in his annual Armed Forces Day speech, and appears to be a recognition of the threat posed by the organizations, both of which have been branded as terrorist groups by the junta. His troops have come under heavy attack nationwide since the formation of the NUG and PDFs when people took up arms to fight the regime after the coup in 2021.

Formed by elected lawmakers from the ousted National League for Democracy (NLD) government and its ethnic allies, the NUG commands the loyalty of the vast majority of Myanmar people in its fight against the regime. So do the PDFs, who receive military and logistical support from some of Myanmar’s established EAOs, including the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).

In his speech at the same event last year, Min Aung Hlaing vowed to “annihilate” the resistance groups. One year on, however, the junta still can’t control the country despite its forces’ regular air strikes, arson attacks, killings and raids in resistance strongholds. Last month, he openly admitted that only 198 out of Myanmar’s 330 townships were peaceful. A few days before he repeated his vow on Monday to crush the resistance, combined forces of resistance groups and allied EAOs in Kayah and Karen states dealt a heavy blow to his troops.

On Monday, Min Aung Hlaing stressed that martial law had been extended in 40 townships—most of them in the country’s anti-regime strongholds—across the country in order to decisively crush the resistance.

He urged his troops to “effectively use the firearms provided” to root out the resistance led by the NUG and PDFs.

Observers saw Min Aung Hlaing’s latest vow to decisively crush the resistance as an act of desperation and feared it would lead to an increase in bloodshed.

“But I wonder whether he can do it. His troops are overstretched across the country and under attack,” said a local military analyst.

He pointed out that Min Aung Hlaing’s vow to annihilate his opponent last year was followed by brutal attacks on resistance forces.

“He hasn’t been able to control them [the resistance], though. They are just getting stronger,” he said.

Who joined the celebration?

Apart from the parade and display of military hardware, the Armed Forces Day event is an annual gathering of military personnel, including retired former senior military officers.

Monday’s event was joined by former head of the Union Election Commission ex-lieutenant general Tin Aye, and former major-generals and ministers Htay Oo, Thein Zaw and Ye Myint. All are loyal to former dictator Than Shwe.

Former admirals Soe Thane, Nyan Tun and Thura Thet Swe were also among the guests. Ex-generals Khin Aung Myint and former Air Force chief Nyan Tun were also present.

Apart from the military personnel, senior figures from pro-regime political parties were also invited.

Ex-brigadier general U Khin Yi, the chairman of the military proxy Union Solidarity and Development party (USDP), joined the celebration in his military uniform.

Union Solidarity and Development Party Chair U Khin Yi (center) attends a ceremony to mark Myanmar’s 78th Armed Forces Day in Naypyitaw on March 27, 2023. / AFP

One-time student activist and prominent 1988 pro-democracy protest figure U Ko Ko Gyi, the leader of the People’s Party, attended the event despite public criticism of his plan to register his party under the regime, probably to contest the junta’s planned election.

People’s Party chair Ko Ko Gyi (center) attends a ceremony to mark the country’s 78th Armed Forces Day in Naypyitaw on March 27, 2023. / AFP

Min Aung Hlaing said on Monday that the polls would be possible only when there is peace in the country.

Following the coup, the junta promised to hold an election but did not specify a time frame. The planned polls have been condemned at home and abroad as a sham intended to cement the junta’s grip on power.