Myanmar Junta Offers Cash Rewards to Resistance Defectors

By The Irrawaddy 11 May 2023

Myanmar’s military regime has offered People’s Defense Force (PDF) fighters up to 7.5 million kyats (US$3,570) each if they defect to the junta along with their weapons.

The offer contradicts junta chief Min Aung Hlaing’s vow, made on Armed Forces Day on March 27 this year, to take decisive action against PDFs, and appears to be a tacit acknowledgment by the regime that it is unable to crush the nationwide resistance movement.

In a May 9 announcement, the junta offered different cash rewards for different types of weapons and equipment brought in by PDF defectors, ranging from 200,000 kyats (US$95) for a walkie-talkie, two million kyats (US$950) for a pistol, and 7.5 million kyats for a mortar or rocket-propelled grenade launcher.

While the junta has previously said that it kept the door open for PDF fighters who have not committed any crimes, this is the first time the regime has offered cash rewards to resistance defectors.

The offer comes at a time when the regime has been struggling to cope with rising resistance and mounting desertions from the Myanmar military. Junta forces are also suffering heavy casualties, as PDFs allied with ethnic armed organizations are fighting hard in Sagaing and Magwe regions and Kachin, Chin, Karen and Kayah states.

The civilian National Unity Government (NUG) told a press conference on May 3 marking the second anniversary of the founding of its armed wing the PDFs that there are now over 300 PDF battalions and units across the country, as well as community-based defense forces in some 250 townships.

Since the 2021 coup and up to February this year, a total of 3,236 soldiers and 9,091 police had defected from regime forces.

Revolutionary forces said that the regime’s offer of cash rewards to defectors is a sign that its propaganda programs have failed and that junta defections are continuing. The scheme is intended to sow suspicion and dissent among revolutionary forces, they added.

U Naing Htoo Aung, the secretary of the NUG’s defense ministry, said: “The regime is at its wits end, and has therefore resorted to giving monetary incentives with the aim of creating disunity within PDFs and encouraging them to quit the revolution. The regime will also organize fake ceremonies to deceive people into thinking that PDF fighters have defected with their weapons. It shows the low cunning of the military regime.”

In April 2022, the NUG offered to pay US$500,000 to regime aviators and sailors who defect with a military airplane or navy vessel. It also offered cash incentives for damage caused to military aircraft and warships.

Previously, the regime said it would welcome resistance fighters who wished to surrender as long as they had not committed any crime. But in its May 9 announcement, the junta said that those who ‘return to the legal fold’ will face trial if they have committed crimes like murder and rape, but that penalties would be reduced depending on the offenses committed.

Despite the junta’s previous invitation to defect, there have been hardly any credible reports of PDF fighters surrendering to the regime. Few Myanmar people have any trust or faith in the reports of resistance fighters defecting that have appeared in junta-controlled newspapers.

The fact that the offer of cash rewards has come as large numbers of junta soldiers have defected, while the regime is fighting a war on multiple fronts across the country, shows that junta troops are losing ground, said Ko Spring, who is in charge of operations and recruiting for the Civil Defense and Security Organization of Myaung Township, a PDF in Sagaing Region.

“The regime has tried to propitiate [the resistance] by making concessions bit by bit. It would not have made such a concession if it was stronger and had the upper hand,” he said.

Resistance forces based in western Myanmar’s Chin State have vowed to fight until the end, said Salai Timmy, the general secretary of the Chin State Joint Defense Committee, a coalition of Chin-based resistance groups fighting the regime.

“The invitation, in my view, is a counter-operation in response to large numbers of [junta personnel] joining the Civil Disobedience Movement. As it has been difficult for them to operate on the ground, I am sure the regime will offer talks. But we are determined to fight until the end,” stated Salai Timmy.