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Death toll for anti-junta fighters surges in past two months

The death toll of anti-junta fighters has spiked over the past two months, surpassing 100 in August and September together, according to Burma News International’s Myanmar Peace Monitor, which compiles data on military conflict in the country.

The higher death rate is another indication that civil war between the junta and rebels resisting the military’s rule since it overthrew a democratically elected government in a 2021 coup d’etat.

During the previous six months – between February and July – a total of 132 members of People’ Defense Forces were killed, it said. 

Many PDF members are ordinary citizens who have taken up arms against the military, and sometimes there is a lack of coordination or cooperation between the disparate units, sources told Radio Free Asia.

“When the war intensified, the need for tactics and the differences in weapons and ammunition shows there is still a problem for the revolutionary forces,” said Captain Lin Chet Aung, a member of the Civil Disobedience Movement, made up of soldiers and government employees who quit to protest the coup.

The rebel fighters need more weapons and train more on tactics and coordination, he said.

“If you look at the areas where the killings took place, there is a lack of connection between the groups in their area, and a lack of information,” he said. “There is a lack of trust” between PDF units.

‘Must have run out of ammunition’

According to Myanmar Peace Monitor’s tally, the death toll included 51 people in Sagaing region, six in Magway region, 20 in Chin state, two in Kayah state, 10 in Tanintharyi region, three in Mandalay region, one in Kachin state, two in Bago region, five in Kayin state and one in Shan state.

Some of the killings have come in bursts.

On Sept. 18, seven PDF members were killed in a battle between the PDF troops and the junta in Palaw township in Tanintharyi region. They were arrested and killed due to lack of manpower and firing power, the person in charge of Myeik District No. 1 Battalion told RFA on condition of anonymity.

“They were surrounded by more than 200 strong junta troops. They were arrested in a house in Mya Taung village,” the person said. “They must have run out of ammunition while shooting.”

On Sept. 22, junta troops arrested and killed 27 PDF members near Chay Yar Taw village in Sagaing region’s Myinmu township, Captain Khin Thaung of Myengmu Township PDF told RFA.

“They did not get time to run because they were evacuating the civilians,” he said. “Furthermore, security information was leaked out and they did not get information in time.”

Political commentator Than Soe Naing said the PDFs must adapt to the change in the junta’s tactics. Resistance forces are suffering more casualties because they lack basic military strategy, he said.

“This isn’t a situation like in the past when the junta launched offensives by using artillery,” he said.

RFA attempted to contact junta spokesman Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun for a response on the recent increase in killings of PDF members, but he didn’t respond.

Translated by Htin Aung Kyaw. Edited by Matt Reed and Malcolm Foster.