Houses burn after junta forces opened fire with heavy weapons on a residential area of Thantlang, Chin State on September 18. / CJ
By The Irrawaddy 5 October 2021
One of the Myanmar military regime’s most notorious commanders will lead clearance operations against civilian resistance fighters in the country’s most restive regions, according to a former army captain.
Lieutenant General Than Hlaing, the head of the Myanmar Police and the regime’s Deputy Home Affairs Minister, is set to take charge of operations against People’s Defense Forces (PDF) in Sagaing and Magwe regions and Chin State. Over 1,080 junta troops have been killed in those areas in the last three months alone.
The former army captain, who defected from the military after the February 1 coup, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that Lt-Gen Than Hlaing and Lieutenant General Tayza Kyaw have been assigned to the northwestern military command based in Monywa, Sagaing Region to lead the military’s operations against the PDF.
Around 3,000 junta reinforcements have been sent to the region as well, the former captain said. Since the second week of September, internet and mobile phone services have been blocked by the regime in most of the townships where civilian resistance fighters are most active.
Lt-Gen Than Hlaing was appointed as chief of the Myanmar Police and Deputy Home Affairs Minister the day after the coup. Since then, he has earned notoriety for commanding lethal and brutal crackdowns against peaceful anti-regime protesters and striking civil servants.
One of his victims was his own brother. Lt-Gen Than Hlaing’s younger brother Ko So Moe Hlaing, 53, a veteran pro-democracy activist, was tortured to death in May while in military custody in Bago Region.
As of Monday, 1,158 people have been killed by the junta in their raids, crackdowns, arrests, interrogations and arbitrary shootings since the coup, said the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
Another 8,743 people, including elected government leaders, have been detained by the junta or are the subject of arrest warrants.
The European Union, United States, United Kingdom and Canada have all imposed sanctions on Lt-Gen Than Hlaing for overseeing the crackdowns on civilians.
His mission in Sagaing and Magwe regions and Chin State comes as the Myanmar military is suffering an ever-increasing number of casualties in ambushes and attacks by civilian resistance fighters as they step up their operations against regime forces.
Over 840 junta soldiers were killed in Sagaing Region between June and August, while another 105 regime troops died in Magwe Region. 136 junta soldiers were killed in Chin State in the same period, according to Myanmar’s parallel National Unity Government (NUG).
In response, around 700 to 800 junta reinforcements have been deployed since last week at Shwe Taung O, a residential area for former military personnel located near Monywa, a member of the Kani-PDF told The Irrawaddy.
However, regime forces have not yet started any operations in Kani Township, apart from military vessels patrolling the Chindwin River, added the civilian resistance fighter.
The former army captain who spoke to The Irrawaddy said that the military’s operations in the area would start within a week, and that many civilians will be put in danger by their activities.
“We are ready to resist if they raid our region. We have no plan to flee. We are no longer afraid of the damage to our villages because the whole country is being damaged by the military regime,” the Kani-PDF member told The Irrawaddy.
“We can rebuild the country within five or ten years if the whole country becomes a battlefield. But we will suffer more trouble and oppression for up to 100 years if we are defeated by the military dictatorship,” he added.
On Monday, the Pale-PDF ambushed a military convoy of more than 80 vehicles, including armored cars, carrying junta reinforcements to Pale Township in Sagaing Region. Five of the 80 vehicles were damaged by landmines and several soldiers were killed in the attack. Much of the convoy reached Gangaw Township in Magwe Region the following day, according to the Gangaw-PDF.
Most of the civilian resistance fighters in Sagaing and Magwe regions and Chin State are armed with old-fashioned or homemade weapons and mines, while the junta forces are using automatic weapons, heavy explosives, jet fighters, helicopters and gunboats in some of the clashes.
“It is time now for the NUG to supply us with weapons. Otherwise, many people could die here,” said a leader of the Gangaw-PDF.
Regime forces have escalated their raids and acts of violence in Sagaing and Magwe regions and Chin State since the NUG declared a nationwide defensive war against the junta on September 7. Junta troops have burned down villages, launched artillery strikes against residential areas in towns and killed civilians, including a five-year-old girl.
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