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Myanmar: How the Resistance to the Coup is Organised?

On February 01, 2021, Myanmar and the World were shocked to see the armed forces, the Tatmadaw led by Senior General Min Aung Hlaing taking over power placing the elected leadership led by National League for Democracy (NLD) then State Counsellor and Foreign Minister under arrest.

What followed later was a bloody civil war that had gone out of control, creating a feral state a year later a thousand local mutinies resisting the Myanmar military which thought itself to be all powerful to wield power in a country that has seen decades of violence on the ethnic periphery. This time, the majority Bamar residing in the Irrawaddy Valley speak the Burmese language and join in resisting the military's take over.

What is the resistance and who are the rebel fighters which have driven the Myanmar military to the brink? Here is an overview-

The Political Direction

The political leadership of the resistance is led by the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC), which comprises former members of the NLD and core group of the ethnic communities.

NUCC is a guidance body that has taken control of the resistance. The ethnic communities which have joined the resistance include some of the largest organisations as the Karen National Union (KNU) and Kachin Independence Organization (KIO).

The governance and military control of the resistance is vested in the National Unity Government (NUG). NUG has declared a Federal Democracy Charter is a federal coordinating body that the NUCC guides.

NUG's legislative body is the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH). This comprises of representatives of the NLD ousted in the 2021 coup. "Pyidaungsu Hluttaw," is the Union Parliament the CRPH is a Committee that represents the same.

The CRPH has recently enacted the People's Police Force Law for law enforcement in resistance-controlled areas.

Local Administration of the Resistance

The NUG claims that interim administrations operate in Indaw, Kyunhla, Wuntho, Katha, Tigyaing, Kanbalu, Banmauk, Pinlebu and Kawlin townships Sagaing Region and are being expanded to 19 other townships in Sagaing. Sagaing is the main region which has offered maximum resistance to the military coup.

According to the NUG's home affairs ministry, six townships have parallel administrations in Magwe Region.

A People's Police is also being established under the law from the defectors of the 80,000 strong union police force. 2,937 striking police officers are said to be working with the NUG which claims that even those officers who have not joined the civil disobedience movement (CDM) are assisting the NUG.

The NUG's Ministry of Justice has also formed judicial systems in townships.

The People's police and the ministry of justice will address the complaints received by the locals over excesses by the forces.

However, the Ethnic Armed Organisations (EAO) who form part of the resistance administer and coordinate in their areas and with their own forces. For instance in Kayah State, the Karenni State Police has been formed independently of the NUG.

The Fighting Arms

The fighting arms include the two main ethnic armed organisations the Kachin Independent Army and the Karen National Defence Organisation (KNDO) and the People's Defence Forces (PDF) as well as local defence forces.

The NUG claims that operations of 259 PDF battalions and local defence forces in 250 townships is being coordinated by the Government. The PDF and local forces take the names of their towns and blocks such as the Yaw Defence Force and Madaya People's Defence Force.

The NUG is now finalising forming of regional commands and supervision teams. Supervision teams are being formulated for each district.

The PDF is the main fighting arm resisting the military in multiple small encounters across the country with the main fighting in the Sagaing Region, Chin and Kayah state but has gradually spread to other regions and states as well as engulfing the entire country. Mandalay, Magwe and Tanintharyi Region has also seen considerable action while the PDF is also active in the country's commercial capital. A local defence force is active even in the national capital which has a large military garrison.

Armed with basic rifles in many cases, they resist the Myanmar Army with support of the people and use local knowledge of terrain to advantage, laying ambushes and targeting convoys. The PDF claim to have caused multiple casualties to the military which cannot be verified.

Some EAOs are said to be tacitly supporting the resistance providing the PDF armed and training support while others are sitting on the fence, such as the Arakan Army.

Myanmar Army

The main striking force of the Myanmar Army or the Tatmadaw are the light infantry divisions which are said to be 12 in numbers and have 10 battalions each which are targeting the resistance in multiple encounters in slash and burn attacks adopting a scorched earth policy. This has led to several villages being burnt and thousands internally displaced.

The aim of these actions are mainly to terrorise the villagers and prevent them from supporting the PDF.

Use of air, attack helicopters and artillery is also extensive, though how far the Myanmar Air Force is fully in tune with the campaign is not clear as the head of the Air Force was denied an extension recently.

The military is under severe pressure as reports in April denoted that an "emergency alert" has been issued to units across the country for resistance.

In an interview with media outlet Voice of Myanmar, regime spokesman Major-General Zaw Min Tun admitted that the junta's administrative mechanism is not functioning properly in northern Sagaing, Chin State and some places in Kayah, all of which are resistance hotspots.

The military has also promoted two pro-regime militias or vigilante groups.

The Pyu Saw Htee consists of military supporters, retired military personnel, military proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party members, and ultra-nationalists. This was raised in May last year and has been active in targeting the NLD leaders' families, NUG and PDF members.

The parallel Thwe Thout ("Blood-sworn") group is the most recent one which has issued death threats to the NLD and groups supporting it with the launch of "Operation Red."

The regime is supporting these under what it is calling as the public security system to eliminate the rebels, branded as, "terrorist," forces.

The Army is also taking assistance from a number of insurgent groups operating in India’s North East which have bases in the Sagaing Region as a quid pro quo for their continued stay in this belt. This despite coordination by the Myanmar military with the Indian Army and assurance at various levels of Indian government not to provide sanctuaries to the militants.


On the face of it the civilian resistance in Myanmar appears to be an unequal fight between hundreds of poorly armed militia fighting the all power Myanmar Army with a full fledged air force. However, the military has failed to contain the resistance, which is gaining in strength each day. Reports of defection from the military are growing but need to be confirmed.

The civil war is thus emerging in a long and bloody campaign of exhaustion and which side will blink first is uncertain for now.

[Information for this report has been sourced from Myanmar Now, an independent news service with local news sources and The Irrawaddy, a leading source of reliable news from Myanmar.]

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