top of page

Ethnic Armed Organisations – Role in Myanmar Civil War

Updated: Feb 18, 2023

In case the civil insurgency cum war like situation is expected to succeed there would have to be extensive cooperation between the National Unity Government (NUG) and the Ethnic Armed Oganisation (EAO).

Of the 17 major EAOs in Myanmar , NUG says eight of them are cooperating politically or militarily with them.

NUG spokesman U Nay Phone Latt told The Irrawaddy: “We are cooperating [with EAOs] in practical terms. I can’t name them for various reasons but you can find them in reports from the frontlines.”

The Irrawaddy reports that EAOs are in four broad categories open cooperation, clandestine support, sympathy for the NUG and those who cooperating with the Myanmar Army and fighting against the junta


The Kachin Independence Army, Karen National Union (KNU), Karenni National Progressive Party, Chin National Front and All Burma Students Democratic Front cooperate with the NUG.

In Chin State the Chin National Army/Front (CNA/F) which is an effective ethnic armed organisation—and the Chinland Defence Force (CDF) which was formed after the military coup two years ago are active. This State borders India’s Mizoram and Chin civilians are seeking refuge in the Indian state.

The type of support that is estimated is training for 65,000 resistance fighters that have appeared since the coup.

Coordination with the EAOs is being carried out through three regional commands to ensure military cooperation between the groups.

Region I oversees northern and western Myanmar, Region II covers southern areas and Region III in central and eastern zones.

Reports indicate that there are 200 PDF units operating under the command of MDC 1 with responsibility for the Kachin, Anyar(Central Myanmar) and Chin theaters as of November last year.

50 PDFs operate in the areas of MDCs 2 and 3.

NUG’s Central Command and Coordination Committee formed in October 2021 includes leaders from allied EAOs.

Interim Chin National Consultative Council, Kachin Political Interim Coordination Team, Karenni State Consultative Council, Mon State Interim Coordination Committee, Pa-O National Federal Council and Ta’ang Political Consultative Council are all working with the NUG and are seen as political coalitions representing ethnic minorities.

EAOs Hidden Support

The Three Brotherhood Alliance of the Arakan Army (AA), Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) are providing training and weapons to resistance forces.

MNDAA Brigade 611 is said to be a combination of at least six resistance groups, including the Bamar People’s Liberation Army, which is allied to the NUG.

The Arakan Army is also known to be training or trained resistance fighters in western Magwe Region and the TNLA has trained volunteers from Mandalay Region.

EAOs Sympathetic to NUG

United Wa State Army, Shan State Progress Party and National Democratic Alliance Army have ceasefires with the regime and have held talks with the junta but not conceded to its demands. These groups have refused to sign an agreement with the Myanmar military which has demanded

Pro military EAOs

Seven EAOs that are signatories to the 2015 Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, including the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), New Mon State Party (NMSP), Democratic Karen Benevolent Army, Karen National Liberation Army Peace Council, Arakan Liberation Party, Pa-O National Liberation Organization and a Lahu Democratic Union splinter group, only engage with the junta.

Of these only RCSS and NMSP have the potential relatively large armies while the others have few or no troops.

Will cooperation with the NUG increase?

A third of EAOs with an estimated 40,000 troops in total are fully cooperating with the NUG.

The NUG President has urged his cabinet to prioritize ethnic affairs and the forming of partnerships with ethnic forces. “Now, it is a good time to rebuild the trust with the ethnic people that has been broken by the military dictatorship and their racism, as well as to topple the dictatorship,” said Duwa Lashi La. The NUG is attempting to woo the EAOs by assuring them of a federal system which has been a demand and which the military has refused to acceded to.

Strength of Resistance Forces

As per Irrawaddy there are 65,000 total PDF troops. 20 percent of PDF troops are equipped with military-grade weapons and another 40 percent have homemade weapons.

NUG estimates that there were around 401 LDFs as of April this year. LDFs outnumber PDFs and PDTs. Though not under the command of the NUG or EAOs, some 354 LDFs cooperate with them informally.

100 LDF groups are reportedly transformed into PDFs. There are some 30,000 LDF members.

About 25 percent of them have been armed like a regular army while some 40 percent have home-made guns.

Each PDF battalion is said to have 200 to 500 members, organized in sections, platoons, and companies according to the structure of a regular army as per the Irrawaddy.

The PDTs, also known as PaKaPha, are formed by the NUG, and specialize in urban guerilla warfare, basic training for new resistance fighters, logistics, public mobilization and PDF support. According to the NUG, the PDTs have been formed in 250 out of 330 townships.


bottom of page