Security personnel defectors face hardship in Myanmar’s remote border regions

Tin Myint’s husband, Aung Myo Thant, risked his life to defect from Myanmar’s navy and join the country’s non-violent Civil Disobedience Movement, or CDM, in opposition to the junta shortly after the military seized power in a coup.

The couple moved with their four children to a remote border area under the control of the armed opposition and now receives a monthly stipend arranged by the shadow National Unity Government. 

But, like many of the estimated 12,000 security personnel who left their posts to join the non-violent anti-junta movement, they are now facing hardship and struggling to survive, Tin Myint told RFA’s Burmese Service in an interview.

“We are trying to cover all expenses, including food, with a monthly allowance of 200,000 kyats (around U.S.$100) at the moment,” she said. “But it’s very difficult to make ends meet as we have many children.”

Tin Myint said her family endures “a lot of inconvenience” but said that they are committed to “this righteous path of joining the people’s CDM movement.”

“We are trying to live a balanced life as much as we can,” she said.

More than two years since the Feb. 1, 2021 coup, some 3,200 military officers and 9,000 policemen from across Myanmar have joined the CDM, according to the NUG’s Ministry of Defense. Like Aung Myo Thant and his family, most are sheltering along the country’s border in remote areas administered by ethnic armies.

All CDM members, including former soldiers and police, receive financial assistance from the NUG’s Pyi Thu Yin Khwin, or “People’s Embrace,” committee to support the work they do for the opposition.

NUG payments ‘not enough’

However, the meager allowance means that most are facing difficulties earning a living of one kind or another, according to former Captain Lin Htet Aung, a spokesman for the committee, which is made up of ex-police and military CDM personnel.

“We get help from NUG’s Pyi Thu Yin Khwin committee, but I have to say that it’s not enough,” he said.

“Those who are sheltering in the border areas are facing various hardships. Although some organizations have arranged safehouses for them, it depends a lot on the country on the other side of the border.”

Lin Htet Aung said he was surprised to find that the international community has not done more to assist CDM members like him in their fight against the military regime.

“As the people sheltering in the border areas are facing various hardships, it would be good if we could get help from the NUG and revolutionary organizations, as well as foreign countries,” he said.

In this image grab from Feb. 2021 video, Myanmar government employees participate in the Civil Disobedience Movement protest against military junta. Credit: Image grab from RFA VideoOkkar, the general secretary of the Pyi Thu Yin Khwin, told RFA that his committee gives what it can and noted that it does more than just provide financial assistance to CDM members.

“We really appreciate their will and sacrifice for the people of Myanmar and we are so proud of them,” he said.

“We provide them with not just financial, but emotional support as well. We also provide some programs to help them live a life as regularly as before. We provide various forms of support to them, including emergency support.”

Draining manpower

According to a recent commentary published in the Irrawaddy online news journal, while the military has typically provided stable employment and decent pay in Myanmar, worsening inflation and economic turmoil under the junta means that the average monthly salary for a captain is only 300,000 kyats (U.S.$170), or “chicken feed compared to living costs today.”

The commentary, written by a former army major who joined the CDM in June 2021, said that “many commissioned officers can’t survive on their salaries and have to ask for financial support from their parents and relatives” as “very few officers can support their family with the surplus from their salaries.”

It claimed that “manpower is draining significantly from the military now,” in part due to thousands having defected to the CDM, although it noted that as many as 1,000 soldiers deserted the military annually, even before the coup.

But Naing Htoo Aung, the permanent secretary of the Nug’s defense department, told RFA that not only are security personnel hurting the junta by leaving their posts, they are bolstering the CDM by “engaging in as many anti-junta sectors as they can.”

“Some of them who have joined the CDM movement participate in fighting against the junta forces, facilitate training, work in the production of weapons, give analysis and advice to the military strategy section or join groups such as the Pyi Thu Yin Khwin committee to bring in more CDM employees,” he said.

Observers say the exodus began in earnest in April 2022, when the NUG began to offer rewards to military personnel who defected to the CDM. The shadow government has offered up to 1 billion kyats (U.S.$475,000) to defectors who “liberate” military equipment to anti-junta forces or can prove they have disabled fighter jets, helicopters, gunboats, or other infrastructure.

‘We now have a chance’

Tin Myint’s husband Aung Myo Thant, who left work for the junta’s Maw Ya Waddy Navy Base in Tanintharyi region’s Kan Pauk township to join the CDM in October 2021, told RFA that despite the difficulties, he does not regret his decision.

He said he is happy to have learned about “the world outside of the navy circle” and now works masonry and carpentry jobs after having picked up the skills in the villages near where he lives.

“Once I left the navy, I got no salary at all and I had no food,” he said. “We now have a chance to survive with the food and shelter provided by the ethnic groups of this liberated area.”

“I am satisfied if I can provide enough food for my family for each day,” he added.

Translated by Myo Min Aung. Edited by Joshua Lipes and Matthew Reed.


不想錯過? 請追蹤FB專頁!    
前一頁 後一頁