Around 450 soldiers and police in Myanmar have broken with the military junta over the past two weeks to join the resistance movement in opposition to the Feb. 1 coup that ousted the country’s democratically elected government, defector groups told RFA.
On Sept. 7, the country’s shadow National Unity Government (NUG), made up opposition figures including former lawmakers who were part of State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party and lost power in the military takeover, called on soldiers and police to join the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) of government employees who refuse to support the junta.
According to the NUG’s ministry of defense and People’s Embrace, a group for defectors from junta security forces, 453 soldiers and police officers answered the call, bolstering the defectors’ ranks to around 3,000.
“Since the announcement of the People’s Revolution on Sept. 7, an average of 33 people a day have contacted us,” Naing Htoo Aung, the permanent secretary of the NUG’s ministry of defense, told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
The 453 new personnel represented a 20 percent rise over the two-week period, the secretary said.
Prior to that announcement, a total of about 1,500 soldiers and 1,000 police defected according to statistics from People’s Embrace and the Facebook page of the Myanmar Police CDM Channel, another group of defectors.
RFA attempted to contact junta spokesman Maj. Gen Zaw Min Tun for comment, but he could not be reached.
The Myanmar Police CDM Channel said that among the 453 newcomers, about 50 had already joined the CDM and about 400 were waiting for the right opportunity to leave their units.
Another defector soldier group, the People’s Bosom, told RFA that many junta soldiers are starting to realize they are on the wrong side.
“There are more and more soldiers and police personnel who don’t like what the army is doing to the people and they are becoming aware of the unrelenting efforts made by the NUG for the country,” Capt. Lin Htet Aung of the People’s Bosom said.
The captain said that if more police and soldiers defect, the junta will become weaker and relinquish its power with less bloodshed.
A member of a military family who spoke on condition of anonymity told RFA that the military has laid down tighter movement orders for soldiers and their families to prevent them from joining the CDM.
Getting a pass to go off base is now impossible except for health reasons, and even with a pass they are allowed to leave with only the clothes on their backs.
“They don’t even allow merchants on base. Soldiers and families have to go through a series of major steps to leave the family quarters,” the source said.
“You can only leave if you are allowed to go. Even if you get permission, you cannot stay overnight.”
The military also does its part to cultivate political opinions that align with the junta among families living on base.
Military officers often tell soldiers’ families that Aung San Suu Kyi had failed to do anything to improve the country over the past five years, and that it was not acceptable that a woman should be in charge of the military leaders, another source who lives on a military base told RFA.
Despite the junta’s best efforts, he said, many in the military are skeptical of the coup.
The junta in an official statement said its leader Gen. Min Aung Hlaing met with military family members in Lashio on Sept. 19, nearly eight months after the coup, to explain that he had taken over state power because of voter registration errors during the 2020 elections, a claim that the junta has never proven.
A resident of Myingyan in the central region of Mandalay, who did not want to be named for security reasons, said soldiers should join the CDM because they are now fighting not for the country and the people, but for the military dictators.
“They have to join the CDM. When a person does something, it should be according to his beliefs. Those working under the junta are not fighting for the state or for the people. So what they are doing is totally meaningless,” the Myingyan resident said.
“It would be wrong for them to fight for the junta. They cannot earn the love and respect of the people, and there will be no dignity or financial gains for them,” said the Myingyan resident.
Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Eugene Whong.