In one of the British army’s first primers on “small wars”, Charles Callwell wrote in 1896 that “in no class of warfare is a well organised and well-served intelligence department more essential than in that against guerrillas”. This has since become a familiar maxim, quoted in countless books and taught in military academies around the world.

It has also been a lesson learned by authoritarian regimes in Myanmar, which has been wracked by insurgencies since it regained its independence from Britain in 1948. This lesson is now being relearned by the junta which seized power in February 2021 and is currently engaged in a bloody civil war against a coalition led by the shadow National Unity Government (NUG) and its People’s Defence Force (PDF).

Myanmar has always been controlled through powerful intelligence agencies. The British colonial government relied heavily on intelligence collected through its police forces. After Ne Win’s coup in 1962, the Military Intelligence Service was an ever-present threat to Myanmar’s citizens. Between 1983 and 2004, the Directorate of Defence Services Intelligence and Office of the Chief of Military Intelligence exercised enormous influence over Myanmar’s national affairs.

Please click here to read the full “Myanmar’s intelligence war: The battle of wits and wiles against the junta” article published at The Interpreter, written by Griffith Asia Institute Adjunct Professor Andrew Selth.