War Against the Junta

Myanmar Resistance Forces Unite Under KNU Leadership in Mon State

By The Irrawaddy 11 October 2022

Separate People’s Defense Forces (PDFs) have united in a resistance coalition in areas of Mon State’s Thaton District controlled by the Karen National Union (KNU), KNU spokesman Padoh Saw Taw Nee told The Irrawaddy.

Twenty-four PDF groups in the area merged on October 3 under the single command of KNU Brigade 1.

The coalition, comprising local defense forces and PDF groups directed by the parallel National Unity Government, is now under the command of KNU Brigade 1’s newly formed alliance supervisory committee. The committee was formed in line with KNU policy to cooperate with all those fighting the military regime.

“Many groups are fighting the regime, though they vary in size. So, it is important to make sure that the broth is not spoiled by too many cooks,” said the spokesman, adding that KNU Brigade 1 felt obliged to take a leadership role.

Formation of the resistance coalition followed the September 21 seizure of a Denko Co fuel truck by local anti-regime group Kyaikto Revolution Force (KRF), who detained the crew and sold off the 4,000 gallons of gasoline it was carrying.

The KNU Brigade 1 called the act a kidnapping and punished KRF officials for breaching its regulations. The KRF accepted the punishment and said it would follow KNU Brigade 1 orders.

However, the KNU alliance supervisory committee said the coalition’s formation was not triggered by the KRF incident.

The idea to merge resistance forces cropped up in November last year, but there had been various delays before all groups were put under a single command, said a committee secretary.

The committee also issued 25 rules for the resistance groups, requiring them to respect the culture and customs of local people, and refrain from coercion, kidnapping, demanding ransom, and extortion.

“Some 30 groups have registered with us. But we only issued certificates of recognition to the 24 groups that promised to abide by our rules. We did not issue certificates to other groups for certain reasons,” said the secretary.

An ethnic affairs analyst said PDF groups in areas controlled by the KNU have been operating independently, unlike their peers in Kachin State, who are under the command of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).

“The KIA has effective centralization of command. Its headquarters directly control all [KIA] brigades. PDF groups come under those brigades and so are effectively under the command of KIA headquarters. But it is different for the KNU. It has seven brigades and all of them have their own powers, without centralized control,” said the analyst.

KNU Brigade 1 has been fighting the junta regime since 2021 following the coup. September saw 39 clashes between the two sides, resulting in 48 junta soldiers killed and five KNU-led personnel injured, according to KNU information.