Myanmar Military Government Offers Cash Rewards to Defectors

Myanmar military government offers cash rewards to defectors
Myanmar military officers leave the venue during a parade to commemorate Myanmar's 78th Armed Forces Day in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Monday, March 27, 2023.

BANGKOK (AP) — Myanmar’s military government is urging people fighting against its rule to surrender their weapons, offering a cash reward if they do so along with the possibility of reduced sentences if they broke the law.

The official announcement in Wednesday’s edition of the Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper said people involved in major resistance organizations, including the People’s Defense Forces, are “invited to return to the legal fold.” The PDF are the armed wing of the pro-democracy movement that was organized after the army’s 2021 takeover.

The announcement accused anti-military organizations, which the army calls terrorist groups, of using fear and indoctrination to persuade “innocent people” to join them.

It said people who surrender will have to face trial if they committed crimes including murder, rape and injury to others, but that the government would reduce the penalties depending on the offenses.

The announcement said people would receive up to MMK 7.5 million (USD 3,500) if they hand over arms and ammunition, with homemade guns fetching MMK 500,000 (USD 240) and items such as mortars and rocket launchers receiving the largest amount. It offered MMK 5 million (USD 2,400) for drones capable of carrying out bombings, a favored tactic of the resistance forces.

Myanmar has been mired in violence and civil unrest since the military overthrew the elected government of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021. The takeover prompted nationwide peaceful protests that security forces suppressed with lethal force, triggering armed resistance across the country. The military, despite a strong advantage in armaments, has been unable to crush its opponents.

Opposition to military rule is led by the National Unity Government, which was established by elected lawmakers who were denied their seats by the army takeover. It maintains it is the country’s legitimate administration.

The loosely organized People’s Defense Forces, along with their allies among armed ethnic minority groups, regularly launch strikes on military personnel, bases, and outposts.

The way the military offers incentives to try to entice youth taking part in the resistance movement over to its side shows it does not understand why young people took up arms and sacrificed their lives for the revolution, said Thinzar Shunlei Yi, a pro-democracy activist in exile and an executive of People’s Goal, an organization supporting defections from the state security forces.

“Just persuading like this does not mean that the revolution will end. They should have known from the experience of more than 70 years that until justice is obtained and the military group returns to their barracks, the people will continue their generational revolution,” Thinzar Shunlei Yi said Wednesday. Myanmar became independent in 1948 but has faced civil strife for much of the time since then, especially from ethnic minority groups seeking autonomy.

Since June last year, the military government has urged people who are fighting the military to lay down their weapons and return to civilian life, and while that offer included some financial support, it didn’t include the easing of sentences and rewards for turning in weapons.

The military government’s Information Ministry said on May 3 that 502 members of the opposition People’s Defense Forces have contacted the authorities and returned to the legal fold.

The National Unity Government said in a statement last Friday marking the second anniversary of the founding of the People’s Defense Forces that more than 13,000 members of the military and police have defected to the resistance since the army’s takeover.

Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations currently meeting in Indonesia have put Myanmar’s political crisis high on their agenda. They are concerned about regional instability, with some unhappy that the military government has largely spurned the group’s effort at peacemaking.


Associated Press