Last week, Myanmar troops rushed to the town of Mindat. There, a local militia group showed tenacious resistance to the military.
Many of the population fled to the forest after the army bombarded the town with mortars and rockets.
Volunteers say many of them now need urgent humanitarian resistance. They have little food or shelter and cannot get medical care.
The military blocked road access to the town, blocked its water supply, and made the lives of those who remained behind very difficult.
“Soldiers are constantly patroling and shooting. They are invading homes to arrest people, which is why so many soldiers leave,” said one volunteer.
Handle the problem with your own hands
The struggle of Mindat, with a population of less than 50,000, has inspired protesters across Myanmar who meet daily under the slogan “Mindat Fighting.”
Beautifully located on a mountain ridge, one of the many towns in Chin State, western Myanmar, has begun protesting the February 1 military coup. The military defeated the democratically elected National League for Democracy after insisting on fraudulent elections. They do not provide evidence to substantiate these claims.
The coup has caused more than three months of protest between civilians and the military.
However, Mindat residents say they were almost alone in the first month as they held bike rallies along winding roads against the backdrop of forested hills on the Indian border.
However, as in other parts of Myanmar, in March the military began to use deadly forces against demonstrators.
By April, more than 500 people had died nationwide, and activists around the world were wondering how they could fight back. In most places, there were few good options due to the lack of unique weapons.
However, in western Myanmar, there is a tradition among the Chin people to make long hunting guns called Tumi, which are allowed to be used by the government. So they began to form a “People’s Defense Force” to increase armed resistance to the military regime.
In late March, the first armed conflict occurred in many populated areas of the Chin, one of Myanmar’s ethnic minorities.
Untrained civilian fighters suffered even more, but for the first time there were reports of serious casualties on the military side.
Like other border states with a population other than Birman, Chin State has experienced many years of systematic military abuse dating back to Myanmar’s independence in 1948. The Chin National Front (CNF), which rebelled in the 1990s, was a government army.
Thousands of Chin civilians have fled to neighboring India to escape military retaliation. However, military operations reduced the CNF to a smaller number of fighters, and the group agreed to a ceasefire with the government in 2012.
Therefore, unlike other ethnic groups along the eastern border of Myanmar (Karen, Shan, Kachin), Chin controls his territory to provide help and shelter to those who oppose the coup. Armed rebel groups no longer exist.
“We are running for our life”
In early April, opposition activists announced the establishment of the Chinland Defense Force (CDF), a state-wide militia that is now dissatisfied with the lack of support from the toothless CNF and seeks to adjust their resistance.
One of the CDF’s branches is in Mindat, and in February, exiled government-loyal local civil servants had already declared a “people’s management team” to run the town against the military.
According to locals, the spark that ignited the Battle of Mindat was the arrest of seven young activists carrying coup-prevention posters in the town.
On April 24, a crowd gathered to demand release, and five others were previously detained. According to witnesses, fired, armed militias counterattacked and three police officers were killed.
For the next three days, the army tried to take reinforcements. However, the Mindat militia claimed to have taken advantage of their familiarity with the hills to ambush two army convoys, destroy several trucks and kill 15 soldiers.
The army agreed to a ceasefire on April 27, releasing seven activists later that night and the CDF releasing 20 trapped soldiers. Police and military units then withdrew from Mindat, and most of the fighting stopped for the next two weeks.
However, the military’s request to allow troops access to Mindat, and the CDF’s request to release all five remaining activists, appear to have caused a new clash on May 12.
The next day, military junta declared martial law in Mindat and began firing more shells, mortars, and rocket-propelled grenades into the town.
The CDF retaliated by ambushing another military convoy of six trucks, burning five and seizing weapons. Some soldiers were killed and the rest fled. To avoid vulnerability to ambush, the army began using helicopters to bring in reinforcements.
On May 15, soldiers reportedly re-entered the town and used civilians as human shields, and CDF fighters decided to retreat to the surrounding forest with thousands of inhabitants. did.
“We are running for our lives,” an activist told the BBC. “Thousands of people are in the woods. Only babies and the elderly remain in the town. Almost all young people pick up their weapons and participate in the CDF.”
Currently, about 2,000 refugees live in four rudimentary camps next to a small village just a few hours’ walk from Mindat.
They are worried that food is very scarce, there is little material to build shelters in the monsoon rains, and there is a lack of treatment for those injured in combat. Many other inhabitants of the town are believed to be dispersed in the area surrounding the town.
The CDF states that it is reorganizing and planning the next move. It wants to be coordinated with other CDF units in Chin State.
Its traditional Tumi guns are now augmented with more modern weapons captured by the military, given by North Korean defectors, or obtained from other armed groups operating in Myanmar and India. There may be. Use of those weapons.
The massive fighting seen in Myanmar’s Chin region could mark the beginning of a new phase in the conflict between military junta, which seized power in February, and its many enemies.