Most defectors now want to join the People’s Defence Force and fight against the regime, a former captain says
About 800 soldiers have left the military to join the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) since the February 1 coup, a former captain who is helping people to defect has told Myanmar Now.
Lin Htet Aung, 29, defected in late March and has since teamed up with more defectors to assist others in leaving the military. He served in the 528th Infantry Battalion under the Triangle Region Command in eastern Shan state.
About three quarters of those who have defected are ready to join the People’s Defense Force (PDF) to fight against the regime, he said. The rest would like to help the revolution in other ways but do not want to fight, he added.
Around 100 of the defectors had been serving as officers with ranks including major, captain, and lieutenant.
Some have travelled to border regions controlled by ethnic armed groups and are giving crash courses in combat to people who fled cities to take up arms against the junta.
Most defectors are from the navy and air force; soldiers from infantry regiments have found it more difficult to flee due to the fear of repercussions against their families.
“The main reason they can’t defect is because they’re performing frontline operations and are separated from their families,” said Lin Htet Aung.
“They don’t have access to our statements either, so that doesn’t help,” he added, referring to public pleas by defectors for other soldiers to join CDM.
Between 40 and 50 of those who have defected left their families behind in military housing, he said. “They don’t know what to do and they have no support. There’s no way for them to reach out to their families.”
Most of the defectors are aged between 2o and 35 and no one above the rank of major has defected.
“We don’t expect anything from those in higher ranks,” Lin Htet Aung said. “The higher up they are, the more scared they are of losing their positions.”
“If they defected this fight would be over quickly,” he added.
“We don’t expect anything from those in higher ranks. The higher up they are, the more scared they are of losing their positions.”
Lieutenant Htet Nay Bala, 24, defected on March 7. He said he fled the 269th Infantry Battalion in Chin State after the regime ordered attacks against peaceful protesters across the country.
“Instead of protecting the people after taking their taxes as salaries, this institution is committing all these atrocities. So I no longer want to be a part of it,” he said.
“Everyone felt their future being taken away when the coup happened,” he added. “As a youth who loves my country, I’ll continue with the revolution. There’s no turning back.”