Myanmar’s regime has officially endorsed pro-junta militias that are increasingly targeting civilians who oppose military rule.
Junta spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun told the regime-controlled media in Naypyitaw on Wednesday that the regime was implementing a “public security system” and will strengthen them to eliminate “terrorist” forces.
He said the system has been developed with regime supporters, the army and police in some areas where resistance forces have escalated attacks on junta targets.
“We will support them with manpower and equipment,” he said.
His comments come as pro-junta Pyu Saw Htee militias are increasingly terrorizing civilians and ambush resistance fighters alongside regime troops in resistance strongholds like Sagaing, Magwe and Mandalay regions.
The first Pyu Saw Htee — named after a legendary historical hero — militias were formed in mid-May last year after the parallel National Unity Government (NUG) began forming people’s defense forces (PDFs) to resist the regime.
The groups emerged as attacks on military-appointed administrators and administrative offices were increasing.
The Pyu Saw Htee largely consist of military supporters, retired military personnel, members of the military proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party and ultra-nationalists.
The Progressive Voice rights group recently reported that the Pyu Saw Htee are becoming increasingly violent and are permitted by the junta to make arrests, kill PDF members, loot and destroy property and assassinate political leaders.
On March 3 in Lel Yar village, Magwe Region, junta troops and Pyu Saw Htee members torched around 200 buildings, destroying homes, livestock feed, a water pump and crops, Progressive Voice reported. Approximately 1,700 civilians, including 500 children, fled Lel Yar after hearing gunfire as their houses began to be set alight.
On March 4, junta and Pyu Saw Htee personnel raided Letpan Hla village, setting fire to around 30 homes and destroying property. The junta also used artillery.
Around 14 resistance fighters in Khin-U Township, Sagaing Region, were killed in mid-February by Pyu Saw Htee members disguised as civilians.
Maj Gen Zaw Min Tun denied the newly emerged pro-junta Thwe Thout group was endorsed by the regime. He did not mention taking legal action against the group that is seizing civilians and leaving them dead with the group’s lanyards.
After the brutal murders of National League for Democracy supporters in Mandalay at the weekend, Thwe Thout said in a statement that it will murder other party members and supporters and the families of resistance fighters.
Pro-junta social-media personalities and military informants shared the group’s statement and its potential targets.
On Wednesday, the NUG’s defense ministry released a statement calling for members of the Pyu Saw Htee and other groups trained and armed by the regime to surrender to resistance forces.
The ministry said it will protect those defecting while saying militia members guilty of war crimes will face the same justice as members of the armed forces.