An interview with PNDF spokesman Khun Thiha Htoo Zaw
February 1 of this year marks the second year of the military coup. Fighting continues to occur on the ground between resistance forces and military council troops. At a time when the revolutionary path is dragging on, Khun Thiha Htoo Zaw, spokesman for the Pa-O National Defense Force (PNDF) – Shan State, was interviewed to learn about the political stance of the People’s Defense Forces (PDFs).
Q: When was the PNDF founded?
A: The PNDF was first formed on 29 May 2021. But the first formation disbanded. There were many reasons for that, but mainly lack of support. We needed a lot of support when we worked with the public. And there was no security because there were internal leaks. Our comrades had to flee to safety. We couldn’t continue working in the area. So, we had to stop for various reasons. Not long ago, on 29 March 2022, the group was established for the second time .
Q: What kind of support are you currently receiving? Are you working within the framework of the NUG?
A: So far, we’re working with the support of the people. We aren’t yet a battalion under the NUG, but we do have connections. And we have also applied to become an official battalion under the NUG. We follow its guidelines and work programs. Right now we’re working mainly with the support of the people.
Q: It’ll soon be two years since the coup. What are your hopes for the revolution?
A: I think it’s very simple. The revolution is mainly driven by the people. It continues with the support of the people, both at home and abroad. That is the reason why we can continue this revolution. We’re determined to continue until the military dictatorship is overthrown. Without the support of the people, we won’t be strong enough to continue. As long as the people support us, we’ll continue to participate in this revolution.
Q: As a young man, what would you like to say about the upcoming election of the military council this year?
A: We have only recognized the 2020 election. It’s valid. It wouldn’t be acceptable if they invalidate the previous one with the 2023 election. We already have an officially elected government. They have imprisoned our President and the State Councillor. So it would be an illegal election that shouldn’t even take place. They have even invalidated existing votes. Now they’re trying to hold another election just to relieve international pressure. If this election is ever held, the military council should also be held accountable. We don’t welcome this election. We’ll do what needs to be done. We’ll rely on the leadership of the NUG. But we don’t know yet how we’ll do it. Whether we do it militarily or politically will depend on the NUG itself.
Q: Do you think there will be security during the vote?
A: I think they’ll be able to hold the election in the areas they control. Nevertheless, voters won’t be safe because our resistance fighters are active in every community. Our network covers every town and village. We also have weapons, so there would be no security. In other words: We don’t support this election. We must try to prevent it to the best of our ability. Because of international pressure, the military council will impose the election by any means. It won’t be a valid election. So people should be careful if they want to cast their vote. How good the security is during the election depends on the military council itself.
Q: As a young man, what do you think about current politics and the revolution?
A: It was the first time we experienced a military coup. We didn’t decide to take up arms before the coup. We’re students and we made our demands democratically. But they took violent action against us. If we want to resist those who have weapons, we must have weapons. But we aren’t doing this only for our Pa-O people. That is my position. My political position is that I belong to the peoples. The liberation of ethnic peoples is everyone’s business. We’ll leave “ethnicity” aside for a while. Since we’re human beings, we’ll continue to serve the people and the interests of the nation.
Q: What would you like to say about the Pa-O National Organization (PNO), which is under the military council?
A: We have already thought about it. They exist in communities like Pinlaung, Hopong and Hsi Hseng in Pa-O areas in southern Shan State. So they’d be a great help to this revolution if they sided with the people a little bit. But it leans heavily on the military council. They work according to the will of the military council. The military council lets them operate in these areas. And the PNO has also sent its soldiers to fight in Karenni. In this situation, we see them as our enemy. This is also in the policy of our armed force. We see every pillar of the military council as our enemy and we have declared war on them. We’ll inevitably have to fight the PNO if it joins forces with the military council. We can also confront them militarily if they stand in our way. But we try to avoid confrontations with them as much as possible to prevent ethnic conflict within the community.
Sent by Shan Herald.