Resistance forces in the anti-regime strongholds of Sagaing Region and Kayah State have revealed that they are producing homemade weapons, and are asking for public support to keep their arms production going as they continue their fight against the regime.
Armed resistance against the regime erupted across the country last year in the wake of the junta’s violent crackdown on peaceful protests in March 2021. Since then, armed resistance groups known collectively as the People’s Defense Force have emerged.
Currently, there are 259 PDF battalions with approximately 80,000 to 100,100 members, according to the parallel civilian National Unity Government’s Defense Ministry.
There are also around 250 township-based forces and 400 guerrilla forces, most of whom are in contact with the NUG.
However, the NUG has admitted that despite spending 95 percent of its budget—or more than US$45 million—on arming PDFs and manufacturing weapons, it is still unable to meet the firearms requirements of all PDFs. The NUG has raised funds by issuing bonds and selling shares in coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing’s Yangon mansion, and also receives donations from the public.
The NUG has stated that at least US$10 million is needed monthly to fund the resistance movement, and its officials have urged the international community to provide arms, but the request has fallen on deaf ears.
But the resistance groups that lack equipment haven’t sat idle. They have tried to produce their own weapons in order to fight back against junta troops as best as they can. As gun prices are skyrocketing on the black market, they have found it cheaper to produce their own weapons, even though there are some quality issues. To do this, they have turned to the public for support.
On July 5, the Pone Taung Tiger People’s Defense Force based in Pale Township published pictures of weapons made by its production team. Two heavy weapons, 121 artillery shells, 25 mines and an improvised rocket launcher have been produced by the group. Moreover, it has produced 50 small guns for its members.
A small gun cost 100,000 kyats (US$54) and an artillery shell costs about 30,000-50,000 kyats.
One weakness of the small guns is that they can’t fire multiple rounds, like a commercially produced weapon. They are single-shot weapons that hold only a single round of ammunition and must be reloaded manually after every shot. Therefore, the group uses these alongside commercially produced weapons.
“Although it is a single-shot gun, it hits like a real gun. It is useful and fairly priced. So, we can arm most of our members. It takes just 40 seconds to 1 minute to reload. Additionally, we hope that the NUG will provide us with guns, and once they do, our members will already have practice using weapons,” said Bo Than Chaung, the head of the production team.
During clashes with junta troops, the Pone Taung Tiger PDF has used its heavy weapons, though there have been some problems. These weapons can’t be accurately aimed to hit specific targets like the regime troops’ weapons can—so what they lack in quality they try to make up for in quantity.
“We have to use 10 heavy weapons when we fight against [military] troops because our weapons have some weaknesses when shooting. Thus, we use more artillery shells and shoot more. The scale of the damage caused by our artillery shells is not too different from the junta’s,” he added.
The production team of around 30 members have been producing arms and ammunition since last year. Almost all the members are farmers and knew nothing about making weapons at first.
A few members of the production team had some experience working in auto workshops and other small-scale industrial settings. They downloaded and studied videos about weapons-making from YouTube and went to see the production processes of other resistance groups, which gave them some useful tips.
Since Pone Taung Tiger PDF was established, its weapons team has produced over 50 million kyats worth of weapons, according to Bo Than Chaung.
It is not easy or cheap to get raw materials. For example, it costs 300,000 kyats for a 35-gram bag of gunpowder, he told The Irrawaddy.
To help fund the process, group leaders have collected 5 million kyats from local residents.
“Although the public’s [financial] support has decreased in this year, we never blame the public because they are also struggling under the military junta. But we have to produce as many weapons as we can; we will fight the junta till the end,” Bo Than Chaung said.
As the revolution has lasted more than a year, the public is facing a general crisis. Therefore, public donations have decreased by 80 percent since last year. So, there have been many difficulties in the production of weapons, according to the North Yamar People’s Defense Force based in Yinmabin Township of Sagaing Region.
On June 29, North Yamar PDF revealed that its members were making semi-automatic rifles and requested financial support from the public in order to produce more. One of these costs 600,000 kyats. North Yamar PDF also produces various types of mines and improvised rocket launchers.
Although their heavy weapons are effective, some of their semi-automatic rifles miss the target because their structure is different from a real gun. But North Yamar PDF has to rely on hand-made weapons in fighting soldiers as it has no other options.
Before, they shared their weapons with allied resistance forces but they are now focused on arming all of their members because the military council has conducted a massive offensive in their region.
“The price of raw materials has tripled. With less support, we are struggling to produce weapons and provide daily meals for our group. Although we have never revealed our weapons before, we want the public to know what are we doing and want their support. That’s why we are showing off our production,” said Ko Khant, a representative of North Yamar PDF.
Sayar San PDF from Yinmabin Township also revealed pictures of an Indian shotgun on Wednesday. The group said it cost 1.8 million kyats (US $ 968) to purchase a shotgun. However, the production price is only 500,000 kyats. Therefore, they requested that the public support their efforts to produce more shotguns.
The Karenni National Defense Force (KNDF), a local PDF in Myanmar’s southeast Kayah State, has been actively engaged in the area since last year, inflicting seriously casualties on regime troops. Now they are also begging the public to fund their weapons production, posting video footage of their weapons workshop on Saturday.
The PDF’s Explosion and Technique Department said it has gradually upgraded its production techniques with the support of the public and urged people to continue their assistance.
According to the footage, they have produced aerial bombs to be used with drones to attack advancing regime troops and other targets.