Almost a year after a military junta took power in Myanmar, the country’s rebels have a new tool in their hands. Photos posted on social media in early December show them armed with 3D-printed weapons, a cheaper way to strengthen their arsenals and train new fighters.
In Myanmar’s jungle, resistance is growing. Ever since a military junta took over the country in a coup on February 1, 2021, rebel groups have engaged in guerrilla warfare against soldiers in pockets across the country.
The People’s Defense Forces (PDF), the armed wing of the National Unity Government, have used all the weapons in their possession to fight their country’s military regime.
Some fighters have posted pictures of themselves carrying weapons made with 3D printers. A photo posted on Twitter on December 9, 2021 by Jake Hanrahan, a British independent journalist and founder of the independent media People’s Front, shows a Myanmar rebel armed with an FGC-9, a 9 mm caliber pistol made with a 3D printer.
Incredible. This is a photo of a rebel in #Myanmar / #Burma armed with JStark’s FGC-9, a 3D printed pistol. The fighter is a member of the People’s Defense Forces, which is currently fighting the authoritarian military junta.
(Via @war_noir) pic.twitter.com/HXmXTyAgpO
– Jake Hanrahan (@Jake_Hanrahan) December 9, 2021 The first photo of an FGC-9 in the hands of a rebel, posted by @Jake_Hanrahan.
A screenshot of the post was also shared on Reddit, on a forum dedicated to 3D-printed weapons. If you browse through the comments, a social media user using the name DaddyUMCD says that it was he who first uploaded the image, using an account that has since been deleted. He openly describes himself as a Burmese rebel fighter.
The man’s new Reddit profile has two other images of 3D printed weapons. These are also FCG-9s, modified with an extended barrel.
“We are mass-producing FGC9 to repel the dictator,” the user explained in a post with a photo of several 3D-printed weapons on December 13.
A big advantage of 3D-printed weapons is their relative cost-effectiveness – if you have a 3D printer. A printer can cost around 220 euros, plus 88 euros for other tools and to build a barrel, plus another 88 euros to make each gun after that, according to Slate.
Independent journalist Jake Hanrahan made a 2020 documentary about the person who invented FGC-9, a libertarian known by the pseudonym JStark, whom he interviews in the film. The man does not reveal his identity, but explains why he created the pattern for FGC-9 and then posted it online:
The government, or the entity that has ruled over you, has executive power. The police, the military – they have firearms. In order to escape that injustice, they [citizens] must have the same power, at the individual level.
Thanks to an active and united community of supporters, the designs for this 3D weapon are widely available online. So with just three clicks on Google, you can get the pattern for an FGC-9 (which stands for “Fuck Gun Control 9mm”) for free.
The plan for the handle on the FGC-9 in 3D. © Observers
Our team contacted Jake Hanrahan, who told us about seeing FGC-9 in the hands of Burmese rebels:
I think it’s the most credible, real-world implementation of what JStark wanted FGC-9 to be. He wanted people who are under tyranny – which the rebels in Myanmar are undoubtedly under deep tyranny from the military junta there – he wanted such people to be able to fight back in some small way.
At present, our team has not seen any pictures published online showing Myanmar rebels using FGC-9 in combat.
Leone Hadavi, a weapons expert with the Myanmar Witness collective, which documents human rights abuses in the ongoing civil war, told JowharObservers: “We see lots of weapons, but not many 3D-printed pistols and none in a combat operation.”
DaddyUMCD, the alleged Burmese rebel on Reddit, said the same thing, in response to a comment: “Honestly, we have not done many missions with it yet. These are meant to be used in hit and run missions and to get better weapons from the enemy. For the training ground, these work excellently. “
According to the website Myawady, the authorities in Myanmar arrested a person in 2020 for “terrorist acts”. They also confiscated weapons belonging to this person, which included 3D-printed weapons. The pictures show six FGC-9 weapons that were 3D-printed together with their chargers.
These weapons were seized by security forces. The picture shows six FGC-9 and their charger. © Myawady ‘People’s Defense Forces Gathered to Respond to Regime Violence’
In videos of battles posted by rebels from the People’s Defense Force, the men use military automatic rifles with a superior caliber (5.56 mm or 7.62 mm), Hadavi explained. This is the same type of weapon seen when rebels share images of loot they have received from an attack or raid.
Weapons captured during a PDF raid, published in a photo on Facebook on December 11, 2021.
To meet the organized military junta, various groups of rebel fighters have developed and perfected guerrilla techniques, moved under cover and carried out lightning attacks and small skirmishes, Hadavi said.
Outside the cities, the PDF was gradually created to respond to SAC attacks and harassment. In the second phase of their transformation, they collaborated with different ethnic armed organizations depending on the area in which they are formed and active. These well-established local groups have weapons, supplies, know the area and are in fact very involved in the education and unit formation of these urban youth and in the planning of their activities, which are usually carried out jointly.
With better organization and equipment, PDF elements could also go back to the cities.
>> Read more The Observers: Myanmar Witness verifies citizens’ photos and videos to document human rights concerns
The rebels not only manufacture small-caliber pistols, they also try to diversify their weapons. Some social media users have also noticed images of locally made explosives, such as IEDs.
This video shows another example of the group’s move to diversify its weapons. Posted on Twitter by an account that follows rebel groups, this video shows people in uniform attaching a modified grenade to a DJI civilian drone.
On December 25, 2021, more than 30 charred bodies were discovered in burned-out cars in Kayah, a state in the eastern part of the country. Soldiers from the junta are accused of attacking this convoy in response to rebel attacks.
More than 1,400 have died since the February 2021 coup, according to local observers.