Myanmar junta to let loyal civilians carry licensed arms
Experts worry that it would empower pro-junta groups and help escalate the violence and near-daily clashes
February 13, 2023 1:20 AM
Military-ruled Myanmar is set to allow civilians "loyal to the state" to apply for licences to carry firearms, according to media reports and an unverified government document.
The leaked document, purported to originate from the home ministry, was reviewed by Reuters and other media. It set out criteria for those seeking a gun licence.
The move comes almost two years after the Myanmar military's coup and at a time when the regime is facing ever-growing resistance nationwide from People's Defense Forces (PDFs) and ethnic armed organizations.
Experts worry that allowing civilians to carry guns would empower pro-junta groups and only serve to escalate the violence and near-daily clashes between the military and armed resistance forces that have raged nationwide.
The conditions that figured in the document included an age threshold of 18 years and a demonstrable need for a gun for security purposes, in addition to the loyalty requirement.
Reuters could not immediately verify the 15-page document, and it was unclear when such a law would take effect. Telephone calls to a military spokesperson to seek comment went unanswered.
The document provides for members of counter-insurgency bodies, officially formed militias and those retired from the military to carry pistols, rifles and submachine guns so long as they have such a permit.
It added that the military government would have the right to import and sell firearms and ammunition licensed by the defence ministry.
Anti-regime activists have denounced the new policy.
The new policy is a supplement to a policy originally introduced in 1977 during the military regime led by the late dictator General Ne Win. The policy was subsequently halted after the 1988 pro-democracy uprising.
Since then, only some retired military personnel and well-known business people have been allowed to hold weapons by special permit.
Junta supporters have welcomed the new policy, saying that it will make it easier for pro-regime militia to access arms for self-defense.
The Southeast Asian country's top generals led a putsch in February 2021 after five years of tense power-sharing under a quasi-civilian political system created by the military.
US-based conflict monitoring group Acled says about 19,000 people died last year as the military's crackdown on protests led many to take up arms against the junta.
About 1.2 million people have been displaced in the strife and more than 70,000 have left the country, according to the UN, which has accused the military of war crimes and crimes against humanity.