Myanmar’s military regime to let ‘loyal’ citizens carry weapons

Licensed gun owners will have to comply if local authorities order them to take part in ‘security, law enforcement, and stability’ operations.

A close-up of a fighter adjusting his weapon with a knife. Another fighter is next to him and also has a gun. The picture does not show their faces. The photo is taken in the jungle.
The military is facing armed resistance to its rule from anti-coup fighters and ethnic armed defence organisations [File: AFP]

Myanmar’s military regime will allow civilians deemed as “loyal to the state” to apply for licences to carry weapons, according to media reports.

Local media said the generals, who seized power from the elected government two years ago, planned to allow citizens over the age of 18 to be licensed to carry several types of guns and ammunition.

Public servants and retired military personnel would also be among those allowed to keep weaponry.

The February 2021 coup plunged Myanmar into a crisis that some United Nations experts have characterised as a civil war. Armed resistance groups have appeared in many parts of the country, sometimes training and fighting with ethnic armed organisations that have been fighting the military for decades, while shadowy pro-military militias have also emerged.

The 15-page leaked document on gun licensing was attributed to the military administration’s home ministry and lays out the conditions under which civilians will be allowed to keep firearms.

Recipients of gun permits must be “loyal to the nation, of good moral character” and not involved in “disturbing state security”. Permit holders must also comply when ordered by local authorities to take part in “security, law enforcement, and stability” as well as “crime prevention measures,” according to the document.

The military has labelled its opponents “terrorists”.

Members of counterinsurgency bodies, officially formed militias, and those retired from the military are allowed to carry pistols, rifles and submachine guns so long as they have a permit, the document added.

A military-appointed official was quoted as saying that the policy revived a law on gun ownership that was revoked after the 1988 uprising against a previous military regime.

“After an assessment, the [1977] policy on carrying firearms has been modified and supplemented as is required in order to be in line with the changing situation,” the ministry said, according to online news outlet Myanmar Now.

Military spokesperson Major General Zaw Min Tun confirmed the plan in an interview with the BBC Burmese language service on Sunday.

The two-year conflict has killed an estimated 31,022 people in total – civilians and combatants alike – according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), and the military has increasingly resorted to air attacks to stamp out opposition to its rule.

About 1.2 million people have been displaced in the strife, and more than 70,000 have left the country, according to the United Nations, which has accused the military of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies