‘People’s Administrations’ supplant junta rule in Myanmar’s remote border regions

Officials with the groups say the military regime oversees little outside of town centers.
‘People’s Administrations’ supplant junta rule in Myanmar’s remote border regions Karenni Nationalities Defense Force medical personnel provide check-ups to residents of Kayah state's Demawso township, Oct. 17, 2021.

One year after Myanmar’s coup, anti-junta “People’s Administrations” are consolidating power in the country’s Sagaing and Magwe regions and Chin and Kayah states amid increased resistance to military rule, sources said Monday.

Myanmar’s military overthrew the country’s democratically elected government on Feb. 1, 2021 claiming voter fraud had led to a landslide victory for Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party in the country’s November 2020 election.

The junta has yet to provide evidence of its claims and has violently suppressed nationwide protests calling for a return to civilian rule, killing 1,549 people and arresting 9,132 over the last nine months, according to the Bangkok-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

On Feb. 22, 2021, three weeks after the coup, the shadow National Unity Government (NUG) and Pyidaungsu Hluttaw Committee of Representatives (CRPH) called for the formation of a People’s Administration in every village and township to counter the control of the junta.

Former lawmakers, members of the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM), fighters with the pro-democracy People’s Defense Force (PDF) militia, and residents responded to the call by creating local shadow administrations, which they said enjoy increasing power in rural areas since November, when the military regime stepped up an offensive against ethnic armed organizations and anti-junta forces in the country’s remote border regions.

A shadow official for Magwe’s Saw township, who spoke on condition of anonymity citing fear of reprisal, told RFA’s Myanmar Service that his administration worked directly with the NUG to raise funds in support of workers who had left their jobs to join the CDM and refugees who had fled clashes in the area between the military and PDF.

He said the shadow administration had also restarted the local education system with 20 schools and set up mobile clinics to provide badly needed health services to residents five times per month.

“We cannot govern the cities and the towns, but we are able to implement our administrative mechanisms in areas about four or five miles outside of them,” he said.

“There are even cases of people filing criminal complaints to our administration team and we are settling them on the ground.”

The official said his administration, which has a presence in about 80 of Saw township’s 110 villages, currently coordinates area boycotts of junta products and activities for the CDM.   

He said they have established their administration in 80 out of 110 villages in Saw Township, while opening 20 schools and provide medical treatments by mobile teams five times a month to the local people.

An information and communication official for nearby Gangaw township’s People’s Administration, who also declined to be named, told RFA that their team is in constant competition with junta officials for control of the area.

“We first formed our team when the CRPH called for the formation of People’s Administration groups, but we restructured it on Nov. 3, and … have since worked more effectively,” he said.

“In Gangaw township, there is no area where the military has totally given up the control … We have to flee when military troops arrive. Sometimes, we are engaged in fighting. We retake the area after they leave. The military has been able to control the towns and the areas around their regional bases. For the rest of area, we are competing for control.”

People’s Administrations are typically structured to include a central administrator and officials in charge of village security, health, education, and social welfare for refugees.

The official said residents trust and rely on his administration because it supports CDM members, refugees, and other vulnerable groups.

Near-total control

A shadow official in Chin state’s Mindat township told RFA that his People’s Administration had established control of “95 percent of the area,” excluding the township seat.

“In Mindat town, the military council has their administration, but we are handling many administrative duties,” the official said.

“We have a medical treatment center and are trying to establish public health procedures for other areas. It is the same for education. We are trying to open schools throughout the entire township.”

A resident of Mindat town told RFA it is safer to deal with People’s Administration than the junta.

“The Mindat administration team is working on a manual of governance that oversees areas including the systems of justice, health and agriculture,” he said.

“We are glad that we have this administration as we don’t want to live under the military regime.”

A spokesperson for a PDF group active in Sagaing’s Yinmabin township told RFA that the junta has lost all control of the area.

“Many of the administrators have resigned because they don’t like the junta’s activities,” he said.

“In Yinmabin, the People’s administration team is very powerful. The junta’s administration is gone. They are only limited to the towns.”

Meanwhile, the information officer of the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force (KNDF) told RFA that of seven townships in Kayah state, the military controls only a few wards in the state capital Loikaw and in Bawlakhe township, while the rest is under the People’s Administration.

“It is around 90 percent [outside of junta control] because the people have established their own administration,” he said.

“The people build their own clinics and education facilities. The local people oversee the region’s peace and security.”

Repeated attempts by RFA to contact junta Deputy Information Minister Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun for comment on the governance situation in Sagaing, Magwe, Chin and Kayah went unanswered Monday.

Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.