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National Unity Government lacks chain of command, states analysts

FROM THE DVB NEWSROOM

Myanmar conflict analysts have pointed to the fact that the National Unity Government (NUG) Ministry of Defense lacks a clear chain of command for resistance forces fighting against the military in the central region of the country, known as anyar in the Burmese language. 

The military retook control over most of Kawlin, a district-level town in Sagaing Region, on Feb. 11. It was seized by resistance forces led by the People’s Defense Force (PDF) in November. The PDF, along with its allies, have also seized control of Khampat, Shwe Pyi Aye and Mawlu in Sagaing Region. 

“We have been trying since the beginning to have a systematic chain of command among the PDF and now we have built [it]. But I wouldn’t say it’s perfect,” said Kyaw Zaw, the NUG spokesperson.

The PDF was established in May 2021 by anti-coup protesters who had fled a military crackdown on street protests to ethnic resistance areas and received training from Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs). 

The NUG states that around 300 PDF units have been established nationwide since then and are operating under the Central Command and Coordination Committee (C3C) and Joint Command and Coordination (J2C). 

Besides the PDF, there is the Local Defense Force (LDF) and People’s Defense Team (PDT), also known as pa ka pha in Burmese. These are localized anti-military units formed for local defense and security purposes. Some of these groups are trying to convert into PDF units. 

Yee Mon, the NUG Minister of Defense, said that there were around 400 LDF. They were formed prior to the PDF in March 2021 to protect anti-coup protesters from the military crackdown. 

They have operated autonomously from the PDF and PDT up until now. It mostly relies on homemade weapons but some have connections to EAOs, which have provided them training and equipment. 

“I believe things will be better if the NUG allows the local resistance forces, who understand the situation in Sagaing, to take the lead in building the chain of command. Because the people have a lot of trust in the resistance,” said Soe Win Swe, a political analyst.

The Sagaing Forum brought together anti-military forces in Sagaing Region in May 2023. The BBC reported that 173 groups from 28 townships attended with 70 percent of them being LDF members. 

Those in attendance agreed to form a regional consultative council that can make regional level decisions much like the Karenni State Interim Executive Council (IEC) and the Chinland Council – both formed in 2023. 

“Leaders should tell us what we should do to build the [Chain of Command]. We are ready to follow these instructions,” said Bo Zero, the leader of Zero Guerrilla Force, which was founded in April 2021 after the military killed a protester in Myingyan Township of Mandalay Region. “People in central region have courage but still a precise leader or command system is a must.” 

The NUG Deputy Secretary of Defense Maung Maung Swe told DVB that he was unable to comment about the MOD chain of command. Since last November, the PDF has attacked the military with the assistance of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA/KIO), the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).

“We declared a defensive war in September 2021 and started counter-attacks,” said NUG spokesperson Kyaw Zaw. “In order to conduct those attacks, grab more territory and achieve more victories, we need unity. I think it is very important to be under a single chain of command.”

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