Can civilian deaths be minimized in armed conflict?

Myanmar Spring Chronicle – June 16 Scenes

MoeMaKa, June 17, 2023

Can civilian deaths be minimized in armed conflict?

News about civilian deaths is read and heard every day. These days, news about raids and arrests of civilians reaching about 26 in the vicinity of Mobye is read. Civilian deaths these days are not only in Mobye. News of the bodies of 3 murdered victims found in Thabeikkyin Township, Mandalay Division, news of casualties due to the fall of heavy weapons in Kalay Township and Htantabin Township in Bago Division, news of arrests in Sadaung and nearby villages due to the raids of the military junta troops; and news of the death of an elderly person who was unable to flee during the raid are read at the same time in the daily news.

Incidents involving the deaths of civilians who are not members of the armed forces are happening every day in all parts of Myanmar. The military council is the one who killed the most, and the urban guerrilla groups and PDF armed forces killed a small number of alleged members of Pyu Saw Htee or junta supporters. The main perpetrators are military council troops, police, and armed groups who call themselves militia, but Pyu Saw Htee members by anti-military council forces.

Question may arise as to whether there are any ways to reduce such a large number of civilian deaths. The military council does not hesitate or be reluctant to arrest, torture, and kill not only those suspected of being members of the People’s Defense Forces (PDF) that are fighting against them, but also those suspected of encouraging, supporting, helping, and accepting PDF even if there is any doubt or evidence. On the other hand, I would like to see whether the people’s defense forces can find a way to reduce the number of civilian deaths.

If the people’s defense forces are to use guerrilla warfare tactics, is it possible not to conduct battles in villages and to conduct them in places away from villages where people live? Are the PDFs able to prevent or cast away the raids of junta convoys into the villages? If PDF does not conduct ambushes and mine attacks in the vicinity of villages, can it prevent the villages from being targeted and destroyed and prevent the villagers from being arrested and killed? There may be a way to reduce civilian deaths.

It is possible that the civilian deaths and the destruction of houses and food will make the military council politically resentful, making it easier for the anti-military council forces to organize politically for the revolution and making the locals more determined to fully participate in or help the armed struggle. On the other hand, the loss of houses, food, and family members of those who are contributing to this armed revolution physically and financially may make them unable to continue participating in the revolution due to a lack of strength or a depletion of resources.

The first assumption of the more cruel the military council, the more it is possible to organize politically, will be a thought that shows no mercy to the people who support the revolution and does not value human life and property. If there is belief that the revolution will be victorious soon in a few months or one to two years, although I don’t want to oppose that point of view, when it becomes a long-term battle, in other words, when the situation becomes for the revolutionary forces to fight while struggling to survive at the same time, it shouldn’t believe like that anymore, and it will be necessary to carefully scrutinize and save manpower and resources.

There may be differences in battle strategies and tactics depending on the location of the armed conflict that is currently taking place in Myanmar. However, regarding the rising civilian deaths and increasing incidents of houses and food being destroyed or taken away, it can be said that the situation is the same in the Karenni region, Sagaing and the upper part of Magway.

Ethnic armed groups that have been waging armed attacks and guerrilla warfare for decades may already have tactical experience in the current situation. Ethnic armed groups such as KNU, KIA, KNPP, and TNLA, who are currently fighting with the military council troops, will have real-life experiences to minimize the harm to the local population from their base areas, such as choosing the time, place, and method, etc. After using such experiences, if the final result does not come out after 6 months, a year, or two years, I think it should reassess the situation and change the strategies and tactics in order to fight a long-term battle.