Inside Myanmar: The devastating cost of fighting the military junta

Inside Myanmar: The devastating cost of fighting the military junta

Yogita Limaye,BBC News

Aakriti Thapar/BBC Ruins of a burnt out military baseAakriti Thapar/BBC

A gorgeous lake that is well known in these parts for its distinctive heart-like form is visible from an abandoned Myanmar military tent that is perched atop a wooded hill. Landmine cylinders and expired bullets adorn the earth. Through the stacks of corrugated iron plates scattered about where troops ‘ barracks used to be, yellow wildflowers have sprouted. One section of the tent is surrounded by pits that were dug.

A flag flutters in the wind under the overcast sky: it is a cross between a red, white, and blue horizontal stripe with a hornbill in its center. It is the Chin National Army ( CNA ), an ethnic armed group fighting Myanmar’s military junta in the western Chin state.

Seven months ago, the CNA and other military human organizations pushed Myanmar’s troops out of this border-trade city of Rihkhawdar, which is connected to India. Head rebels are fighting back against Myanmar’s military tyranny, which in a coup in 2021 shattered the fragile democracy there.

The BBC has had a unique opportunity to observe these rebel improvements in the west of the nation because this is the first day the government has lost power of these areas.

The win at Rihkhawdar was hardly clear. It came after numerous insurgencies had been planned for more than a year. And it cost a lot for some people.

Family flyer Lalnunpuii, 17, in military fatiguesFamily flyer

Seventeen- year- ancient Lalnunpuii loved dance. Her social media accounts were whole of her copying popular viral video.

She used to waltz playfully all the time. But she did n’t like to dress up. She used to idolize warriors and spent the entire time listening to songs about men who had sacrificed their lives for the nation. She was brave and strong, and not scared of anything”, says Lalthantluangi, Lalnunpuii’s family.

The teenager’s parents persuaded her to permit her to join the Haimual military human movement after the coup, which she managed to get her to do. In a written article at university, in English, she explained why.

The Burmese man is my enemy because they have no kindness, according to the statement,” Myanmar is broken now, People Defense Force, and I enjoy it.”

Armed citizens from her town and other organizations attacked the Rihkhawdar station in August 2022.

” We rained robots on them for 13 weeks straight. Most of the weapons were made by me as I was the principal electrician for my product”, says Lalzidinga, Lalnunpuii’s parents. Before the revolution, he was a truck driver and a member of the Haimual Women’s Defense Forces.

Despite their fruitless attempts to remove the camp, both sides suffered casualties.

Map of Myanmar

On 14 August 2022, in an obvious retaliation for the assault, the Myanmar military stormed into Haimual community. Roughly a dozen houses were torn down, according to people. We observed the remnants of numerous of these structures. In a charge to halt the opposition, the Myanmar military is accused of burning tens of thousands of human homes in the north and west of the nation.

Lalnunpuii and her fifteen-year-old brother Lalruatmawia were among the 17 people who the military held captive in Haimual. All except the sisters were released. Their father’s family believes that the military is retaliating against them.

Their bodies were discovered by people in a shallow grave in a bush close to Haimual two days later.

Both had been cruelly abused and fatally murdered with the mouth of a weapon. Lalnunpuii had been raped. Her son’s neck, hands and genitals bore fire marks from boiling liquid. The body ‘ detailed images and post-mortem reports have been provided by the BBC.

Myanmar’s war is yet to react to the BBC’s concerns about these claims.

Family flyer Lalruatmawia, 15, is seen in a blue T-shirt in front of a buildingFamily flyer

” I do n’t have the courage to think of what happened to my children”, says Lalzidinga, pausing for a moment, struggling to find words. ” My kids were victims. I did n’t deserve them”.

A little after he continues. A happy parents expressing his love for his children. My brother had grown two inches taller than I. He was talkative and he did n’t hesitate to do any work around the household”, he says. ” The two were inseparable. My girl brought joy and laughter to meetings”.

Lalthantluangi washes tears from her encounter and cradles their youngest child, four- year- ancient Hadaci.

” I tell my father not to be discouraged by our family’s deaths. It’s not just about us. The upcoming generations also require flexibility. Living in such a state where you do n’t have any rights, where you’re at the mercy of the military, that is not correct. It is a battle that merits sacrificing person’s lifestyle. I am so glad of my children”, she says.

Family flyer A couple are seen with their little girl in front of a makeshift kitchenFamily flyer

Through our time in Myanmar we meet people dressed in defense fatigues, some carrying assault rifles and another guns– no professional soldiers, but farmers, students, common people displaying remarkable resolve in the face of a savage conflict.

As the crow flies, the People’s Defense Forces’ Commander Vala points to the lush green valley below Haimual, explaining with a smile that the Myanmar military has been forced to leave. Their closest base is now more than 30 miles ( 48 kilometers ) away. He displays fresh graves covered in pink and white vinyl flowers at the neighborhood tomb.

As Vala straightens a flower that has fallen over near the tomb of his brother-in-law, he says,” These are the people who died fighting against the junta.” We even spot Lalnunpuii and Lalruatmawia’s tombs.

Aakriti Thapar/BBC Recruits at a training ground for the rebel military, with forested hills in the backgroundAakriti Thapar/BBC

Most of the citizens we meet were trained in the CNA’s Victoria Base, north of Haimual. We arrive at the base by driving on twisting, slippery roads through thick forests and rocky ground.

We see plenty of youths, new volunteers in uniforms, moving in an empty field.

” Our country, the property we love, we’ll support it with our heart and existence”, they sing as the drills finish.

It’s followed by arms education. We hear bullets band out eventually.

We’re told they are all over the age of 18, but some looked younger. Numerous youth who experienced a taste of freedom when Myanmar transitioned to democratic rule in 2011 and who now find military law undesirable have chosen to renounce their hopes and join the rebellion.

Nineteen- year- ancient Than Dar Lin had aspired to be a tutor.

” The first year after the coup was n’t too bad. The military finally began shelling our town. It destroyed our house. Soldiers entered our community, burnt homes and killed individuals, and also our pets. We fled to the woods, so many of us, that the forest itself became a village”, she says.

” My brother was brutally shot dead. I hate the military, and so to protect my land and my people I joined the CNA”, she says.

Aakriti Thapar/BBC Than Dar Lin is seen in military fatigues at a training campAakriti Thapar/BBC

Practically everywhere we go, we see Myanmar’s fresh swept up in a flood of revolution.

Thousands of people who worked for the Burmese status have even sided with the opposition.

Twenty- two- season aged Vanlalpekthara was a officer.

” He used to make a pleasant income. We were happy and content. His mother Alice Khiang, who brought three well-worn pictures of her child from when he was in police training, reports us that the government was overthrown in a revolution and he decided to join the weight.

Aakriti Thapar/BBC Mother Molly Khiang holds a photo of her sonAakriti Thapar/BBC

Speaking of her own youth, spent under military rule, she says,” There was n’t a single day of joy back then. We were terrified of them. That’s why I supported my brother’s selection”. Vanlalpekthara was killed in March 2022, six weeks after enlisting in insurgent troops.

Molly yells,” My brother was stabbed here and there,” turning to her chest and back. ” He was cruelly assaulted. His finger was cut off”, she continues breaking down. ” It’s hard to talk about it”.

Vanlalpekthara’s woman was pregnant with their baby when he died. Their baby son, now almost 18 months older, is living in a refugee camp farther apart.

When I inquire about how she felt after being forced to leave her community, Molly raises her fist in the air. ” I’m so happy, but I want to view complete success”. Her second child is likewise part of the Women’s Defence Forces.

Aakriti Thapar/BBC Female recruits are seen at a People Defence Force training ground in combat fatiguesAakriti Thapar/BBC

It’s this aid of swathes of regular people’s that has pushed relatively weaker rebel forces to change the course of this issue and put the much more effective and well-equipped Myanmar military on the back foot.

” They appeared to be winning at first. But whether it’s conflict or politicians, without the support of the people, no one can get. They may have better weapons, but they do not have the people on their side”, says Pa Thang, a lawmaker who’s been named “prime secretary” of a parallel state established by insurgent groups in Chin position. He’s also a member of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy.

The parallel government asserts that it has 80 % of the state’s territory, but the military still has control over the majority of the country’s key cities, including the capital.

However, the rebels are gaining ground after claiming control of Tonzang township earlier this week.

Aakriti Thapar/BBC Htet Ni, CNA spokesmanAakriti Thapar/BBC

” This is our land. It’s not the land of the Burmese military. We are winning because we know every corner of it intimately”, says the CNA’s spokesman Htet Ni.

Another major factor in their success is that a number of rebel groups have gathered in various regions of the nation, requiring the military to decide where to concentrate their efforts. The CNA claims to be allied with the Karen National Liberation Army, the Karenni Army, and the Kachin Independence Army.

The conflict between various groups poses the biggest challenge for rebel forces. Within the Chin state alone, there are numerous factions that have historically been hostile to one another.

Pa Thang insists that they can maintain unity and that they have a strategy for the future under the National Unity Government ( NUG), which represents the military-led elected civilian government led by Ms. Su Kyi, who was imprisoned by the military following the coup.

” We are diligently writing laws and a constitution. As part of the NUG, we will have two ministers and one deputy minister from the Chin State. He claims that” we are keeping everything prepared” for the Myanmar army’s humiliation.

What’s obvious about everyone we met is that they believe they can win.

” It wo n’t be long”, Pa Thang says. Making predictions about such things is not wise, but I have faith that we wo n’t be fighting for more than two to three years.

Additional reporting by Sanjay Ganguly and Aakriti Thapar.