Ethnic Mon groups announce anti-junta alliance in southern Myanmar

Two ethnic armed groups in southern Myanmar have formed an alliance aimed at capturing military junta outposts and taking control of townships in Mon state, which has been relatively peaceful since the 2021 military coup.

The Mon State Revolutionary Force, or MSRF, and the Mon State Defense Force, or MSFD, agreed on April 7 to share equipment and train and fight together to remove the military junta from power, MSDF commander Thiri Mon Chan said.

“We have made an alliance to speed up the fighting by taking advantage of the military situation in other areas of the country,” he told Radio Free Asia. “We will take over military outposts and towns as much as possible.”

Both groups were formed after the Feb. 1, 2021, coup d’etat in which the military took control of the country, sparking a civil war that rages until today.

Soldiers of the Mon State Defense Force, Feb. 1, 2023 (MSDF)

The MSRF and MSFD are also members of the Mon State Federal Council, made up of community-based organizations and members of the Civil Disobedience Movement, which was formed after the coup to resist military rule.

“Cooperation of Mon armed groups and resistance forces in Mon state is a good sign of development,” said Kyaw Zaw, spokesman for the shadow National Unity Government.

“The NUG is always willing to interact with ethnic armed resistance groups and work together with them,” he said. “We will also cooperate with Mon resistance forces.”

Thiri Mon Chan said the MSRF and MSFD have discussed expanding their alliance to include the New Mon State Party-Anti Dictatorship, or NMSP-AD, which announced in February that it was breaking away from the similarly named New Mon State Party, or NMSP.

Troops of the Mon State Revolutionary Force, Aug. 12, 2023. (MSRF)

In 2018, the NMSP signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, which was introduced in 2015 to end years of fighting over minority rights and self-determination. Some 10 ethnic groups have signed the agreement.

The NMSP has remained neutral following the 2021 coup. 

In its February announcement, the NMSP-AD said political discussions with junta officials were no longer possible because of the numerous instances of junta air attacks and arrests that have targeted and killed civilians in Mon state.

Translated by Aung Naing. Edited by Matt Reed and Malcolm Foster.