Myanmar Regime Orders Ground Forces to Wipe Out Armed Civilian Fighters

By The Irrawaddy 21 October 2021

Myanmar’s military regime has ordered its troops to wipe out armed civilian resistance groups, at whose hands the junta’s forces have sustained considerable casualties, sources familiar with security affairs in Naypyitaw said.

The Irrawaddy has learned that the junta’s second most influential figure, Vice Senior General Soe Win, on Oct. 13 instructed commanders and all forces to annihilate the insurgent People’s Defense Forces (PDFs)—guerrilla-style resistance groups that have been active locally across the country with the common aim of toppling the regime.

Along with the annihilation order, Vice Snr-Gen Soe Win issued an order prohibiting villagers from having any contact with the PDFs, and for his troops “to inflict severe punishment to them if they don’t obey.”

The general, who is commander-in-chief of infantry forces and deputy to coup leader Min Aung Hlaing, told his subordinates to “find out and take action against the insurgents and PDF immediately” and “arrest all the people from their hideouts in villages.”

The junta has suffered an increasing number of attacks from the PDFs across Myanmar, especially since the country’s parallel National Unity Government (NUG) declared war on the regime early last month.

In recent months, Myanmar’s military has suffered considerable casualties when facing amateur PDF forces who are largely equipped with improvised weapons in Sagaing and Magwe regions, and Chin and Kayah states. The NUG’s Defense Ministry said there were 65 shootouts between the PDFs and regime forces in September. The ministry claimed 768 regime soldiers were killed while 164 civilians, including PDF members, lost their lives. The Irrawaddy has not been able to independently verify the numbers.

The military commanders are now applying the infamous “four cuts” strategy they used in ethnic states in the past. The strategy is to restrict access to food, funds, intelligence and recruits.

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.

Since September, the military has deployed at least four battalions of reinforcements—around 3,000 soldiers—to Sagaing, the country’s most restive region, to conduct clearance operations against civilian resistance forces, according to local civilian armed groups.

In March and April, when the country saw protests in Yangon, Mandalay and Bago, security forces on the ground were instructed to wipe out anti-regime protesters wherever they encountered them, according to internal memos issued by the top military command in the country’s capital Naypyitaw and whose contents were divulged to The Irrawaddy.

“You must annihilate them when you face them,” reads an instruction dated April 11, because “rioters [the military’s euphemism for anti-regime protesters] have gone from peaceful demonstration to the level of armed conflict.”

That order was also issued by Vice Snr-Gen Soe Win, who is becoming an increasingly key figure in managing security forces in coordination with Bureau of Special Operations (BSO) chiefs across the country.

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