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Myanmar Coup: Why are Soldiers Deserting the Military?

On the first of February 2021, the Mynamar military staged an audacious coup, throwing the democratically elected president Aung San Suu Kyi out of power, and shattering the already fragile democracy of the country into pieces.

It marked the dawn of a regime for the country under the dictatorship. But, fifteen-month months down the line since the military seized the country, the brave civilians of Myanmar have made one thing abundantly clear: ‘they will not be forced to submit‘.

Steeping into the fifteenth months, despite the deployment of arsenal and security forces on the ground, the resistance against the new regime is stronger than ever. Demonstrations, protests, and slogans of freedom raging in every direction depict the picture of the country.

Also Read: The aggravating condition of protesters in Myanmar’s military coup

Now, alongside the protestors, soldiers are joining hands with the civilians to rebel against the new ruling regime.

So, what Lead to the military coup? How soldiers are rebelling against the administration? And what is the current ground state?

Myanmar Coup: The Bloodiest Day

Armed Forces Day in Myanmar celebrates the beginning of local resistance to Japanese occupation during WWII and typically includes a military parade with international commanders and diplomats in attendance.

However, last year, the Military brutalized people opposing the coup that deposed Aung San Suu Kyi’s government as new junta head Min Aung Hlaing observed the march.

According to a local monitoring organization, the violence was the deadliest day in the Military’s assault on democratic demonstrations, with about 160 demonstrators killed and considerable worldwide criticism.

Public protesting against military coup in Myanmar.
Source: Reuters

The Military utilized deadly forces to seize power in the capital. It escalated conflicts with its opponents to the extent that pushed the country into a state of deadly civil war.

With over 1,500 killings by the security forces, followed by 8,800 detainees, in-numerable disappeared and leftover 300,000 displaced. The military coup razed the country’s government to root out resistance (The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners Burma (AAPPB).

The Junta army that recognizes itself as the State Administration Council has constantly claimed the killings and civilian atrocities over the months as a “fight again terrorism.” However, experts believe the civilian casualties on the ground exceed far beyond the official figures.

Soldiers Leaving the Army

Tired of the civilian abuse and aimless killings to curb the outraging protests, many soldiers are secretly defecting from the Junta army.

People’s Embrace, a human rights organization, has been helping disillusioned soldiers and police officers escape the current regime. A recent report by the BBC revealed the security officials’ desperation to defect the brutality against their own people.

Also Read: Myanmar: The Country of “Oppressed” Minorities”‎

However, the organization assisting the soldiers out of the army is now on the radar of the ruling administration. With the fear of execution mounting, Mr Lay, one of the workers at People’s Embrace, helps Tatmadaw soldiers escape.

Mr. Lay is now an active member of an organization he once hunted. He works from a ‘liberated territory,’ one of the many rebel-controlled zones with minority ethnic groups and the National Unity Government (NUG).

The organization has weaponized Facebook and Telegram to awaken and help soldiers out from “years of indoctrination.” Defectors who contact the organization over the internet are verified, and those who are successfully retrieved are given food, shelter, security, and a stipend.

“Basic human rights are being lost, our living standards are at an all-time low, and there’s corruption. If you see all this, you will feel sorry for us.”

Mr. Lay

As the civil war grind, NUG and People’s Embrace attract more national and international supporters. According to a BBC report, NUG has successfully evacuated over 8,000 police officers and soldiers.

In The Hope For a Better Tomorrow

Despite all the arsenals and forces, one major factor Min Aung Hlaing, the leader of the coup, underestimated is the resistance from civilians.

The first protest against the military coup demonstration took place in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, but marches rapidly spread across the country, from the northern highlands to the southern panhandle.

Thura*, a 21-year-old university student, organized a nonviolent rally of 200 people in his township just days after the takeover and has since led virtually daily marches there.

Protest against military coup in Myanmar.
Source: BBC

He was taken aback when troops began firing indiscriminately at protestors. Those encounters, however, inspired him to join an urban guerrilla squad to fight back.

Thura and his companions quickly learned that they had an arrest warrant, and police apprehended them at the end of April.

“[2021] has been horrendous and outrageous, but also inspiring looking at how people all around the country from so many different backgrounds have consistently and courageously resisted the military junta.”

Debbie Stothard, founder, and activist, ASEAN Network

Food shortages, rising inflation, cash constraints, and lengthy bank lines have plagued Myanmar, while the country’s essentially non-existent healthcare system has struggled to cope with COVID-19.

On top of that, security personnel has continued to repress opposition with violence.

What is Happening in Myanmar Now?

More allegations of Mynamar Military Strikes and heavy weaponry use have been covering the headlines recently. According to the UN reports on Human Rights in Myanmar, the Military has deployed jet planes, attack helicopters, light, and heavy artillery, armored vehicles, missiles, and rockets against civilians.

More than 400 attacks have been recorded in the Sagaing Region of northeastern Myanmar. The same region has also accounted for the highest civilian casualties during the coup.

Also Read: Myanmar Coup: Is Re-establishment of Democracy Possible?

Since 2018 countries including Russia, China, Belarus, South Korea, Ukraine, Israel, India, and Serbia have sent armaments to Myanmar. Experts suspect the same weaponry is used against citizens in the current civil war.

Other nations, such as Japan, have maintained military connections with Myanmar and continue to train its troops despite its long history of human rights violations. Myanmar military students and commanders have been attending Japan’s National Defense Academy and Japan Self-Defense Forces institutions for academic and military training since 2015. Otherwise, the Japanese government risks being involved in the Military’s misdeeds by suspending the program and cutting other military links.