Myanmar’s Parallel Government Asks Foreign Governments to Accept Military Defectors 

By The Irrawaddy 25 March 2022

Myanmar’s parallel civilian National Unity Government’s (NUG) foreign ministry has been lobbying the international community to offer asylum to military defectors as a means to boost the revolution.

Daw Zin Mar Aung, the NUG’s foreign minister, told The Irrawaddy that other countries, especially European nations, are asked in every meeting to accept personnel who abandon the junta.

“We asked them, if you can’t assist us with arms, please accept defectors because it’s also supporting the revolution in another way. Luckily this was accepted by Australia. And there are also some countries which are welcoming defectors, but not publicly,” she said.

Australia began granting protection to defectors seeking asylum in January. Groups assisting defectors told The Irrawaddy that the move has elicited interest, including from senior officers and others who oppose the regime.

Nyi Thuta, a former army captain who quit after last year’s coup to join the resistance movement, said there have been many enquires about defecting, especially after the NUG declared war on the junta last September. But no significant number of defections followed due to a lack of guarantees for their wellbeing.

“Third-country acceptance offers a way out for reform-minded people in the armed forces who want to join the civil disobedience movement against the regime and could increase defections,” he said.

The ex-captain added: “Increased defections would boost the revolution’s chances of success by up to 70 percent.”

Since the coup in February last year, Myanmar’s military has been struggling with an unprecedented and rising number of striking personnel, due to public hatred of the junta amid brutal crackdowns on protesters and growing armed resistance and guerrilla warfare.

According to the NUG, there have been nearly 3,000 defectors. The most senior officers have been battalion commanders.

Daw Zin Mar Aung said the NUG was unable to offer monetary incentives to defectors due to its limited budget. But the opportunity to move abroad could persuade many more personnel to abandon their posts, she said.

The minister said she fears Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and a surge of refugees could lead some countries to turn away asylum seekers from Myanmar.

“My message to possible defectors is countries have their limits for annual refugee acceptance. So the earlier you leave, the earlier you will be accepted,” the foreign minister added.

Daw Zin Mar Aung said working on the defection program is an NUG priority and could lead to a turning point for the revolution.

The NUG has formed a committee to work on a defectors program and is working with ethnic armed organizations, which also accept defectors. On March 19, the NUG held a congratulatory event to embrace military and police defectors who have defied the junta.

Daw Zin Mar Aung said the defection program and other NUG policies could be funded by around US$1 billion in assets that have been frozen in the US along with humanitarian assistance and other investment.

The NUG has been trying to recover Myanmar’s foreign reserves frozen by the US after the military takeover.

“If we could access those funds, we could boost the revolution, through policies like the defection program,” Daw Zin Mar Aung said.

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