I’ve covered the history of several of the Ethnic Armed Organizations of Myanmar – shortened to EAOs – on this website, as well as the fighting they are involved in currently. These ethnic fighters have long resisted the domination of the military that has controlled the Myanmar government for generations.
But now a new force is mobilizing that holds the seeds – perhaps – of greater understanding and cooperation between the various ethnicities in Burma.
Following the military coup in February, the members of the democratically elected government that managed to flee before they were arrested formed the National Unity Government. This has been calling for the people of Myanmar to resist the military through demonstrations and strikes. It has also been asking the international community to not recognize the military junta and instead support them.
The NUG has now taken the next step – forming its own military force.
This is in response to the brutal actions of the Myanmar military – the Tatmadaw – and the paramilitary police in putting down the demonstrations that have been taking place regularly across the country.
The NUGs new Peoples Defense Force is forming in the jungles and mountains, evidentially supported by some of the EAOs, who have the necessary experience and equipment to help with training the new volunteers.
What is of particular interest is the terminology that the NUG is using as regards to the PDF, describing it as the first step towards the formation of a federal army.
For the EAOs, this has long been a necessary condition for a peace deal. With the Tatmadaw being responsible for so much suffering for the ethnic minorities, the possibility of surrendering their arms to the central military was always a major sticking point in talks.
The founding of a federal military, with ethnic minorities retaining their weapons under a broader umbrella, is considered an absolute requisite for several of the EAOs.
So, with the NUG stating that the PDF is intended to be the first step in that direction, assumably replacing the Tatmadaw, this represents a major potential milestone between the displaced government and the ethnic minorities.
Of course, unless the Tatmadaw can either be defeated or else deliberately concede power, it is for naught. But it is possible that this marks a step in healing the deep divides in Myanmar society.
After all, nothing unites quite like a common enemy.