War Against the Junta

Pro-Regime Militia Killing Spree Checked by Myanmar’s Growing Resistance 

By Nayt Thit ​​​​​​ 3 February 2023

Along with relentless assaults on regime targets, resistance forces have also escalated attacks on pro-regime militia groups and their villages in upper Myanmar over the past few months.

Resistance forces believe that suppressing pro-regime militias and their bases also protects the public from further atrocities committed by junta troops and allied militia.

Until recently, Pyu Saw Htee militia members trained and armed by the junta were cooperating with military detachments to raid and torch villages during operations against resistance forces mainly in the Anyar Regions of Magwe, Sagaing and Mandalay in the center of the country.

Now, though, the scene has changed significantly. Pro-regime villages hosting the bases of regime forces and allied pro-regime militia are facing near daily attacks and raids as well as drone and artillery strikes by resistance groups.

Many pro-regime villages have also been blockaded by resistance groups.

The first Pyu Saw Htee militia groups were formed by the junta in mid-May 2021 after the parallel civilian National Unity Government (NUG) called for the formation of People’s Defense Forces (PDFs) to resist the regime.

The militias consist of active and retired military personnel, civil servants, members of the military’s proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party and ultranationalists.

They emerged at a time when attacks on military-appointed ward administrators and their offices were erupting across the country.

At first, the militias were suspected of bombing schools across the country and spreading misinformation on social media and at teashops, markets and banks to claim the attacks were carried out by NUG forces.

But when the regime expanded its attacks from resistance forces to anyone who opposed military rule, militias started accompanying the military units and participating in junta atrocities including killing civilians, and looting and burning houses in anti-regime strongholds.

Notable among those atrocities was the massacre of a family of eight, including three children, in mid-January. The family, supporters of Myanmar’s ousted National League for Democracy (NLD), were killed by the Pyu Saw Htee group in Kantbalu Township, Sagaing Region. Jewelry and money were also looted from the house.

The remains of two villages looted and torched by soldiers and allied Pyu Saw Htee militia in Kantbalu in November last year. /Infinity Group

Days later, a militia member detained by PDF members admitted responsibility for the killing of the family.

Between December and January, a military detachment of around 130 troops reinforced by militia members raided and burned over 250 houses in Sagaing’s Kyunhla and Kanbalu townships, killing 13 civilians. Over 10,000 residents were also forced to flee their homes, according to the Kyunhal Activists Group, which tracks junta atrocities.

The troops and militia also looted houses in both villages, stripping them of livestock, furniture and electronic devices as well as agricultural machinery and equipment.

Meanwhile, local PDF groups are organizing in a bid to prevent junta troops and militia in pro-regime villages from raiding nearby villages.

Ko AT (not his real name), of the Kyauklonegyi-PDF based in Kani township, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that local resistance groups have now managed to surround and blockade the pro-regime village of Alel Kyun in Kani Township, Sagaing.

Around 60 pro-regime militia led by two dozen junta troops and police no longer risk leaving their base to raid nearby villages.

“Now, they don’t dare to venture out as our PDF forces have surrounded their village. Land mines have also been planted around the village. The pro-regime village now has to smuggle in food the town of Kani,” Ko AT said.

He added: “We are not merciful to them [Pyu Saw Htee] as they kill our civilians.”

A combined PDF force raided the village twice last year, while the junta retaliated with airstrikes on the resistance groups.

Local PDF groups said they teamed up last week to seize Pyu Saw Htee bases in three pro-regime villages in Sagaing’s Shwebo and Pale townships, killing 35 militia members, wounding 15 and taking 20 prisoner.

On Jan. 27, several PDF groups combined to attack and burn the pro-regime village of Thalalbar after fighting with troops and allied Pyu Saw Htee for hours, according to the Tike Nal PDF, which participated in the assault. Civilian casualties were also reported in the clash as many residents had been prevented from leaving the village by regime forces and Pyu Saw Htee.

When asked what he felt about the Pyu Saw Htee militia, resistance member Ko AT said, “If they realize the situation and surrender, we will welcome them and treat them as defecting combatants. Because we are all civilians.”