Myanmar Regime Planning to Issue Weapons to Approved Civilians

By The Irrawaddy 11 February 2023

Myanmar’s junta is planning to issue arms and ammunition to civilians who agree to participate in local security and law enforcement in their states and regions.

The move comes almost two years after the Myanmar military’s coup and at a time when the regime is facing ever-growing resistance nationwide from People’s Defense Forces (PDFs) and ethnic armed organizations.

Under the new policy, citizens over the age of 18 will be issued licenses allowing them to hold five different types of weapons including pistols and hunting rifles.

Pro-junta militias and security organizations will be allowed to hold pistols, rifles and automatic weapons with permits issued by the regime’s home affairs ministry.

Junta soldiers provide firearms training for pro-regime Pyu Saw Htee militia members in Sagaing Region in February 2022. / CJ

The fact that civilians will only be issued the weapons licenses if they agree to participate in junta-led law enforcement and security means that the arms and licenses are likely to be given only to regime supporters and retired military personnel.

“Ordinary people might not be able to hold weapons. They [junta officials] will only allow arms to be given to the people they want to hold them,” a lawyer told The Irrawaddy.

As resistance to the regime grows across the country, there has been a sharp increase in the number of assassinations of pro-junta militia members, regime informants and former military personnel.

Anti-regime activists have denounced the new policy.

“The policy is a trap and it is only for its [the junta] followers and its militias. It is not in the people’s interest,” U Tun Kyi, a former political prisoner, told The Irrawaddy.

He added that the announcement of the arms and ammunition policy makes it clear that the junta is further trying to oppress the people and that the policy will only lead to more bloodshed and more criminal actions by regime supporters.

The new policy is a supplement to a policy originally introduced in 1977 during the military regime led by the late dictator General Ne Win. The policy was subsequently halted after the 1988 pro-democracy uprising.

Since then, only some retired military personnel and well-known business people have been allowed to hold weapons by special permit.

Junta supporters have welcomed the new policy, saying that it will make it easier for pro-regime militia to access arms for self-defense.

A junta propaganda channel on Telegram said: “It is terrible news for members of the National League for Democracy and PDFs.”