Junta’s Coup Failing As More Soldiers Defect

August 31st, 2021  •  Author:   Progressive Voice  •  10 minute read
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“If anyone who wanted to could desert right now, there would only be the commander-in-chief and the flagpole left in the barracks,”

One captain from Myanmar military told Myanmar Now

It has been nearly seven months since the attempted coup in Myanmar and the number of arrests, detentions, and killings of innocent civilians by the military are increasing every day. As of 30 August, there are now 1,038 civilians confirmed killed, 7,660 arrested, 6,033 detained by the military, and 1,984 civilians are on the warrant list according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP). Those numbers are probably much higher as many more cases cannot be confirmed while the number of ethnic people who have been killed from the military’s artillery shelling and airstrikes are not included in the AAPP’s reporting. The military is becoming more desperate as it faces growing numbers of its members defecting and joining the people and a national budget deficit amid the tireless resistance of the people.

On 17 August, Myanmar Now reported that the total number of defectors from the military who joined the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) against the military junta has reached around 1,500. Many soldiers are beginning to lose their faith in their military’s leadership, and are gradually siding with the people as the military continues their brutal campaign of terror. Lin Htet Aung, who defected in April from the 528th Light Infantry Battalion in eastern Shan State told Myanmar Now that among the defectors there are about 1,000 soldiers which hold ranks ranging from private to sergeant, including hundreds more majors. Lin Het Aung is a former captain from the military who is now helping his fellow soldiers escape safely from the merciless Myanmar military and join the CDM in areas controlled by Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs). “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 an unnamed captain in his interview with Myanmar Now, who still remains in the military and has yet to defect.

In agreement with this statement by the unnamed soldier, Lin Het Aung also described how there are many ‘watermelons’ present in the military – meaning that there are soldiers who are still in the military but are silently supporting the National League for Democracy (NLD) whose emblematic color is red. There were even some rumors during the landslide victory of the NLD in the 2020 elections that large numbers of soldiers from the military’s barracks were believed to have voted for the NLD, instead of the military aligned Union Solidarity and Development Party. During the 2020 elections, the NLD won majority of the votes even in Zeya Thiri’s constituency in Myanmar’s capital Naypitaw, which is dominated by the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and the military. This would have come as a shock to the USDP and the military. In fearing further defections, the military junta strictly controls every aspect of its soldiers’ lives and monitors their every move including controlling their families and Facebook accounts. Despite the fact that soldiers’ fate for defection is death penalty if they are caught, the numbers of defection are increasing steadily over the last six months of the coup. Ceasing this opportunity, the National Unity Government (NUG) and EAOs are encouraging and welcoming soldiers from the military to side with the people and join the revolution by offering safe places in ethnic controlled areas, as well as announcing in Myanmar language about NUG’s pension policy for police and soldiers who choose to defect from the military. The Chinland Defense Force (CDF) has also lately announced a cash reward for the soldiers who want to defect from the Myanmar military and side with the people.

As the people in defiance of the junta conduct boycott campaigns by refusing paying taxes and utilities, the junta is facing a national budget deficit while funds flowing into their pocket has tightened due to targeted economic sanctions. Meanwhile, the inflation rate is rising, and Myanmar’s currency has lost 23 percent of its value since the February 1 coup. In addition, the financial system in Myanmar including the banking sector is freezing and collapsing, not only due to mismanagement and incompetence, but because of junta’s desperate and oppressive measures. Some clear examples are arresting leading financial experts, suspending more than two hundred staff from the Central Bank of Myanmar, limiting the amount of withdrawals, using threats of arrest to force people to place their cash into banks, shutting down mobile banking accounts and forcing private lenders to submit daily reports on account activity. This points to the military’s increasing desperation and a sign that they are weakening. The military junta will likely face more of a budget deficit ahead as the public boycott continues for any kind of payments to the military in defiance of the grave crimes they continue to commit with public funds.

To make matters worse for the junta, the NUG has initiated the Victorious Spring Lottery (Spring Lottery) in parallel with Aungbalay Lottery – a state lottery that is currently being controlled by the military junta. For the first time in its 143-year history, a large majority of the people of Myanmar have boycotted the Aungbalay Lottery since the coup. As a consequence, the military junta had to postpone the lottery draw and reduce the first prize from 1.5 billion kyats (around $911,000 USD) down to 500 million kyats (around $303,055 USD) due to cash shortage. Embarrassingly, the junta could not even make full payments to the lottery winners. Meanwhile, the people have overwhelmingly supported the Spring Lottery by purchasing lottery tickets online although the junta has outlawed and threatened to arrest those who play. Reportedly, on the launch day of the lottery on 15 August, all 50,000 tickets put up for sale were sold out in just over one hour. This shows that despite all the cruelty that the people of Myanmar have to face, they continue to prove how they remain steadfast in their determination to topple the junta, continuing with their defiance against them by showing their support to the NUG. Profits from the Spring Lottery will go towards supporting funds for civil servants who are on strike against the junta.

The military junta is facing increasing defections and a budget deficit. It is becoming desperate, and as a result, doing whatever it can to block the flow of funding to the NUG and other opposition organizations, including local charity groups. However, at this very historic moment, the people of Myanmar continue to firmly stand in their unwavering support for the CDM and the Spring Revolution led by Generation Z. The NUG must support the people’s movement for an all-inclusive federal democratic Myanmar through financial, political, logistical as well as moral support. The international community must also side with the people of Myanmar in their defence for democracy and continue to pressure the military junta by imposing a global three cuts strategy as proposed by the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar – cutting the weapons, cutting the cash, and cutting the impunity. In addition, the international community must support the people to combat the 3rd wave of Covid-19 and unfolding humanitarian crisis by choosing not to work with the military junta and instead, work with the NUG’s Covid-19 Task Force and local organizations, including through cross-border assistance. The people continue to prove their thirst for democracy and freedom by any means they can in opposing the ruthless military that has been conducting a merciless campaign of terror against the entire population. The junta is weakening, and pressure must be increased, and concrete actions must be stepped up.


[1] One year following the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, the former military junta changed the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar overnight. Progressive Voice uses the term ‘Myanmar’ in acknowledgement that most people of the country use this term. However, the deception of inclusiveness and the historical process of coercion by the former State Peace and Development Council military regime into usage of ‘Myanmar’ rather than ‘Burma’ without the consent of the people is recognized and not forgotten. Thus, under certain circumstances, ‘Burma’ is used.

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