Myanmar’s resistance forces have evolved into a People’s Army over the past year. Now, as 2023 starts, the resistance is preparing to speed up the revolution and go on the offensive to hammer the junta.
It has been almost two years of resistance since the Myanmar military seized power on February 1, 2021. The revolution started with homemade rifles in Kalay Town in Sagaing Region in late March 2021, when regime troops crushed an anti-coup protest camp. From Kalay, armed resistance spread across the whole country.
The parallel National Unity Government (NUG) organized resistance forces nationwide into the People’s Defense Forces (PDF) three months after the coup. There are now more than 300 PDF battalions, according to the NUG, while there are still some resistance forces that operate independently. Moreover, there were around 401 Local Defense Forces (LDF) as of April 2022.
Currently, resistance forces are fighting the military regime in northern Kachin State, western Chin State, eastern Kayah State, southeastern Karen State, the central Anyar region – which comprises Mandalay, Sagaing and Magwe regions – and southern Tanintharyi Region.
PDF goals for 2023
PDFs leaders are planning to change the mission and fighting strategy of the resistance this year in order to bring a successful end to the revolution. After beginning the revolution with homemade weapons, the PDFs are preparing to go on the offensive.
Ko Tay Zar , a spokesperson for Moe Nyo Revolution Force, said that the revolution must be completed in 2023 because the public are very tired. Moreover, PDF fighters want to reunite with their families also.
“The whole country must be liberated this year,” Ko Tay Zar told The Irrawaddy.
For that reason, special commando training has been given to resistance forces. Furthermore, PDF leaders in resistance strongholds have already stockpiled arms and ammunition for 2023 in advance.
“We are determined to fight until the end. But if we get (international) assistance like from the United States, the revolution will be successful quickly,” a spokesperson for Yesagyo Yaylaekyun Guerrilla Force told The Irrawaddy.
The NUG, ethnic armed organizations and revolutionary forces have issued statements to speed up the revolution and topple the military dictatorship in 2023. The acting president of the NUG, Duwa Lashi La, said in his New Year’s speech that 2023 will mark the turning point in the war against military rule and called for continuous revolution.
Three members of the Northern Alliance – the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, the Arakan Army and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army – announced that they will continue to do what needs to be done to fight the military dictatorship.
General N’ Ban La, the chair of the Kachin Independence Organization, the political wing of the powerful Kachin Independence Army which is fighting the regime, also stated in his New Year’s speech that the Myanmar military is the enemy of the entire people and that the enemy must be attacked.
Some PDFs in ethnic regions and central Myanmar were able to control some of their areas last year after fierce fighting. They will try and expand their control this year.
Chin State is a hotbed of armed resistance against the junta and is home to at least 27 armed groups, formed by mostly young people from different backgrounds, according to the Chinland Joint Defense Committee. Clashes between the Myanmar military and ethnic Chin resistance groups are taking place in Mindat, Kanpetlet, Hakha, Thantlang, Paletwa and Matupi townships in Chin State.
All of these townships, except for the towns themselves, are controlled by the resistance, according to the Chin Defence Force (Kanpetlet).
A representative of Chin Defense Force (Mindat) said that they have already prepared a plan for 2023 to attack the regime’s military bases, and have presented it to their allies and the NUG.
The representative said that even though most of Chin State is now under the control of revolutionary groups, the entire revolution was not yet successful. If the revolution is to be more successful, the NUG should give more leadership and support to revolutionary groups at the grassroots level.
“If the NUG provides us with arms and ammunition, we can really expand the liberated areas and help and fight for other regions until those areas are liberated,” the representative told The Irrawaddy.
Anyar Region (central Myanmar)
The Anyar region has suffered the most from the regime’s arson attacks. Over 70 per cent of junta arson attacks have taken place in central Myanmar, the stronghold of the resistance movement.
It is estimated that there are 15,000 PDF and 20,000 LDF fighters in Anyar alone, according to a report by the Tagaung Institute of Political Studies.
U Myat Ko, a representative of the Chindwin Yoma Allied Forces, said that they plan to attack in order to take control of townships in 2023. Chindwin Yoma Allied Forces comprises 24 resistance groups in Sagaing Region with 4,000 members, who are fighting the regime in Sagaing, Mandalay and Magwe regions and Karen State.
Like other PDFs, Chindwin Yoma Allied Forces still lack enough weapons. However, they will use homemade weapons in their missions. Their fighters have been given special commando training since the end of last year.
“Last year, we resisted the military offensive. Now, everything is ready to fight the military in 2023,” U Myat Ko told The Irrawaddy.
Moe Nyo Revolution Force is based in Sagaing’s Myinmu Township and has more than 200 fighters. 40 of them have received special commando training in order to step up their missions. The Force has also changed its fighting tactics this year. It has conducted several ambushes with mines on military convoys traveling the Sagaing-Myinmu Road. Now, they plan to launch attacks as well as ambushes.
Currently, Moe Nyo Revolution Force has enough fighters and can produce all the weapons that it needs.
Ko Tay Zar, spokesperson for Moe Nyo Revolution Force, told The Irrawaddy that they won’t retreat from confrontations anymore and will take the battle to junta forces.
The leader of Black God Guerilla Force said that they carried out at least 25 fighting missions last year and are ready to cooperate with powerful resistance forces this year. Black God has around 75 fighters and are based in Magwe’s Myaing Township.
“We want NUG officials to visit us on the ground and do everything they can to help us,” he told The Irrawaddy.
Kayah State is a resistance stronghold with more than 15,000 fighters in at least 12 resistance groups fighting alongside the Karenni Army, the armed wing of the Karenni National Progressive Party. Among those groups, the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force (KNDF), which is led by young people, is the most powerful, with more than 7,000 members including female fighters.
KNDF and allied resistance groups conducted 341 battles last year and captured some Myanmar military bases. During those battles, 797 regime soldiers were killed and 93 injured, according to the KNDF.
Bo Kyaut Saung , the battalion commander of Moebye PDF, said that his group has reviewed the experiences of last year and plans to speed up the fighting in 2023.
“There is a weakness in terms of strategy and ammunition. But our human strength and morale are really strong. So we will be more effective in 2023 than last year,” Bo Kyaut Saung told The Irrawaddy.
The Karenni Revolution Union, which comprises six resistance forces, hope to be able to fight as urban guerrillas to prevent the junta’s planned general election from going ahead in 2023.
Ko Lin Lin, a spokesperson for Karenni Revolution Union, said: “As we started our revolution as urban guerillas, we want to continue that this year in order to control our territory.”
PDF requirements for 2023
All the above PDFs said that their main weakness is a shortage of weapons and ammunition. Some PDFs have received support from the NUG, but it isn’t enough. Other PDFs have not received any support from the NUG.
“We want to request the NUG to ensure that the flow of weapons improves because there is little support as we are in the middle of Myanmar,” a representative of Yesagyo Yaylaekyun Guerilla Force said.
Ko Lin Lin urged the NUG to provide revolutionary forces with weapons. “There are a lot of armed groups in Karenni. So NUG officials need to interact with those forces,” he said.
PDF leaders also urged the NUG’s Ministry of Defense to organize more LDFs. They added that if the resistance unites to fight, the revolution will be over quickly.
NUG defense minister U Yee Mon said in his New Year’s speech that the NUG and allied groups are determined to achieve decisive results for the revolution this year and have drawn up a one-year plan to implement that.
He added that they are planning to supply weapons to all PDF battalions as funding has already exceeded expectations.
“There are good foundations needed if the revolution is to succeed in the second year of the resistance,” said U Yee Mon.