‘If anyone who wanted to could desert right now, there would only be the commander-in-chief and the flagpole left in the barracks,’ said one captain
By Myanmar Now
Around 1,500 soldiers have now defected from the Myanmar military to join the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) against the junta, a former Tatmadaw captain who is helping fellow deserters told Myanmar Now.
The new figures from Lin Htet Aung, who abandoned his post at the 528th Light Infantry Battalion in eastern Shan State in April, indicate that soldiers are now defecting faster and in greater numbers than before.
The number of deserters has almost doubled in a little over two months. In early June, four months after the military seized power, around 800 soldiers had defected.
Among the defectors, about 1,000 hold ranks ranging from private to sergeant while hundreds more are majors, Lin Htet Aung told Myanmar Now.
Most have arrived in areas controlled by rebel groups but have yet to fully earn the trust of others involved in the movement against the junta, he said.
“We’re still in the process of monitoring and assessing them, so we can’t go on the offensive now,” he added, referring to plans for defected soldiers to wage war against the junta.
“But many are found to be enthusiastic about taking part in whatever role possible once we go on the offensive,” said the soldier, who graduated with the 54th batch of the Defence Services Academy (DSA).
Lin Htet Aung has been making introductions between defectors and the National Unity Government (NUG) while reaching out to soldiers within the army to encourage more defections.
Potential defectors contact Lin Htet Aung every day, he said, and are in constant danger of being discovered.
Pro-junta soldiers, he added, refer to would-be deserters as “watermelons” because they see them as green on the outside and red on the inside; a reference to the colours of the military and the National League for Democracy party.
“Many do not want to work for the military council anymore as more and more soldiers lose faith in their leaders,” Lin Htet Aung said.
Lin Htet Aung and another captain who has not defected told Myanmar Now that the military had recently restricted the movements of soldiers and their families. Senior officers claim this is a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19 but it is in fact meant to prevent defections, they said.
“If anyone who wanted to could desert right now, there would only be the commander-in-chief and the flagpole left in the barracks,” said the second captain.
Lin Htet Aung agreed that large numbers of soldiers want to leave. “If it was approved that anyone could resign, even a new soldier who just graduated from the DSA would leave,” he said.
In an interview with Myanmar Now earlier this month, NUG defence minister Yee Mon urged junta soldiers to defect.
“You don’t have much longer to decide whether you’re going to be on the people’s side or not,” he said. “So join the people’s defence force if you can. If you can’t, stop taking orders from the military council. Stop oppressing the people.”
Original Post: Myanmar Now