Attacks by an Ethnic Militia Kill Some 15 Junta Troops in Myanmar’s Chin State

2021-04-26
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Attacks by an Ethnic Militia Kill Some 15 Junta Troops in Myanmar’s Chin State Myanmar protesters flash a three-finger salute of defiance while holding a banner during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon, April 26, 2021.
RFA

As many as 15 Myanmar soldiers were killed in western Chin state Monday by a newly formed ethnic militia, one of whose fighters vowed to “inflict damage” on the junta that ousted the country’s elected government, witnesses and a local rights group said.

Monday’s ambush by the Chinland Defense Force in Chin state, a mountainous, impoverished area near the border with India and Bangladesh, came amid sporadic protests across Myanmar that were met by violent repression by security forces, and heavy-handed efforts to halt citizens’ donations to the anti-junta movement.

“As many as 15 Burmese soldiers have reportedly been killed in a firefight with local civil militia in Mindat, southern Chin state,” the Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) said on its Facebook page. A truck was also seen burning in the town, the group said.

The CHRO said about 10 of the slain soldiers were in a convoy of three trucks sent as reinforcements from the army’s Tactical Operations Command headquarters in nearby Matupi town, while five other troops were reported killed in Mindat, a town of 10,000 people.

“Sources further said the army is sending more reinforcements in another convoy of five army trucks from Pakokku,” the social media post said. Pakkoku is a city of 400,000 people in central Magwe region.

A member of the Chinland Defense Force, formed on April 4 by anti-coup protesters, said that the group aims to end the military dictatorship, abolish a constitution imposed by the army to entrench its power, and establish a federal union.

“We cannot say right now what the strategy will be, but we plan to inflict damage on them,” he told RFA.

“If the threats and violence do not end, we, the CDF, will use all available weapons and other means. We have tumee rifles and other weapons to confront them,” said the Chin fighter, referring to homemade hunting rifles that people in western Myanmar have used to fight off junta troops.

“Currently, we have no casualties on our side,” he told RFA Monday night. “Casualties are only on their side.”

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Myanmar protesters flash a three-finger salute of defiance while holding a banner that reads "Yangon strike will defeat all enemies" during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon, April 26, 2021. Credit: RFA

Three other soldiers dead

At least three soldiers died in a similar battle in Mindat on Sunday night, the CHRO said on Facebook.

Another member of the CDF from Mindat said more people from Chin state will join the militia to fight Myanmar forces.

“In the long run, other townships will join us to fight them, to protect the Civil Disobedience Movement [CDM], and to protect their own people,” he said. “There might be fear and concern among the people, but we need to end the military dictatorship.”

RFA could not reach junta spokesman Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun for comment on the clashes in Chin state.

Kyaw Saw Han, a national security researcher, said militias across the country, including the Chin forces, could form a collective national force and use guerrilla tactics to defend their areas.

“I don’t think these groups are formed to directly confront the military,” he said.

“Their strategy is not clear, but it can be assumed that they will strive to defend their region,” he said. “They could launch attacks on military bases and other state-owned structures like police stations.”

Twelve weeks after troops overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi and her elected civilian government, sporadic anti-junta protests continued to erupt across the country of 54 million people, resulting in violent crackdowns and clashes between security forces and protesters.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a Thailand-based rights group, said that as of Monday, 753 people had been killed in the violence since Feb. 1, while 4,484 others had been arrested.

Restrictions on cash flows

In a new tactic to derive the CDM of funds to oppose the junta and support a fledgling parallel government launched in mid-April, security forces are stopping and searching people in the streets and warning them against carrying large sums of money.

“The junta has made restrictions on cash flows because they fear a normal cash flow will help support dissident groups and civil servants who have joined the CDM movement,” said a member of the parallel government in exile representing a group of lawmakers ousted in the coup.

A woman from Sagaing region told RFA that she was stopped by security forces on her way to town to go shopping carrying 1.8 million kyats (U.S. $1,270).

“I used to go to town with a lot of cash like that because there were no inspections before, [but] the other day when I went to town, they stopped me on the way and asked what I had in my handbag,” she said, adding that security forces told her to carry no more than 50,000 kyats (U.S. $35) in public.

With nearly all banks closed since shortly after the coup when their employees left their jobs and joined the CDM, and the internet shut down by the junta, the cash restrictions are hurting businesses that already have been struggling after a year of coronavirus closures and political turmoil.

“Some of the companies we are dealing with use online mobile money transfers,” said a businessman in Monywa, Sagaing region. “They deposit money through the online payments, and then we send it to the merchants. Now, the companies in Yangon are not accepting mobile transfers—only cash — so we are stuck.”

Hundreds of people continued protesting on Monday in the regions of Yangon, Mandalay, Bago, and Magwe region, as well as in Shan and Kachin states.

A small bomb exploded near a Yadanabon Bank office in Myanmar’s second-largest city Mandalay, and a local resident said there was clash between junta forces and local protesters who demanded the release of six detainees grabbed by military forces on Sunday.

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Myanmar protesters flash a three-finger salute of defiance on a message card during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon, April 26, 2021. Credit: Associated Press

Aung San Suu Kyi’s latest court hearing

Deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, under house arrest in the capital Naypyidaw, attended a virtual court session Monday on a charge against her for allegedly violating the Official Secrets Act in Yangon, Khin Maung Zaw, the leader of her defense team told RFA, adding “the reason is still unknown.”

The lawyers on Monday submitted an application for the transfer of power of attorney required for the defense for the most recently added charge against Aung San Suu Kyi, but the prosecutors said police were waiting for further instructions from higher authorities, said defense attorney Min Min Soe.

“Mother Suu said it has been so long already, and more and more charges have been added since the first case,” Min Min Soe said. “She said it is imperative that the client meet her defense lawyers.”

The 75-year-old Aung San Suu Kyi faces other charges for alleged incitement and sedition, violating the telecommunication law, possession of unlicensed walkie-talkie radios, and violating the Natural Disaster Management Law for breaching COVID-19 pandemic restrictions during the 2020 election campaign.

Detained President Win Myint and Naypyidaw Council Chairman Myo Aung also attended video-conference hearings on Monday. The next hearing date for all three is May 10.

Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Kyaw Min Htun and Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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