Analysis: Myanmar unrest escalates as clashes spread

Displaced people flee violence in the town of Depayin in Myanmar’s Sagaing region on July 2, 2021 in this July 2, 2021 photo obtained by REUTERS reuters_tickers

This content was published on July 7, 2021 – 18:38

(Reuters) – The farming town of Depayin joined Myanmar’s broken communities list when the military intervened to crush a local anti-junta militia armed with makeshift weapons.

When army trucks arrived in Depayin around dawn last Friday, local youths rallied to fight back but were quickly overwhelmed, six residents told Reuters by phone. Dozens of people were later killed by soldiers and thousands have since fled with whatever they could take, residents said.

The state-run Global New Light of Myanmar said “armed terrorists” ambushed security forces, killing one and wounding six. He said the attackers withdrew after retaliation.

Local medics said 41 bodies were found. The People’s Defense Force (PDF) said it had lost 26 of its members, but pledged to continue fighting the army, known as Tatmadaw.

Reuters could not independently confirm these figures.

Photos posted on social media showed at least 10 corpses, some lying in fields outside Depayin. Residents told Reuters the photos were taken there.

“We only have the mind. No weapons, no proper skills to fight in a battle,” said a 58-year-old Depayin resident who gave his name only as Tun because he feared ‘be identified.

A spokesman for Myanmar military authorities did not respond to calls for comment. The military says it has only used proportionate force against threats to state security.

Local officials and police declined to comment when contacted by phone.

Five months after the military ousted elected civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Depayin’s bloodshed echoed in other towns where conflict has resumed in a country that already had around 20 ethnic groups. armed.

Battles have been fought everywhere, from the hilly border areas to the city of Mandalay, with almost daily bombings in Yangon’s commercial center and dozens of killings of pro-military officials. More than 230,000 people have fled their homes.

Despite the smothering of the biggest street protests, the army was unable to impose control. But its opponents are also ill-equipped and disorganized, they themselves admit, a point of view echoed by security analysts.

“REVOLUTION”

Amid grog palm-fringed bean and rice fields, Depayin sits at the heart of the predominantly Buddhist Bamar ethnic majority – the core of the military as well as the support of Suu Kyi and his National League for Democracy ( NLD).

After the February 1 coup that put an end to Myanmar’s timid transition to democracy, the youth of Depayin began to demonstrate regularly and set up an anti-junta People’s Defense Force armed with a few guns to flint, air rifles and catapults, residents said.

“Young people in our region are active in the revolution,” said San Myo Lwin, 30, a local activist now working in South Korea.

Two daughters of a junta-appointed village administrator were stabbed to death in mid-June – among at least 57 people killed for suspected military ties, according to a Reuters tally. No one claimed responsibility for the murders. Local police declined to comment.

Resistance in Depayin fell quickly on Friday as young people retreated to a monastery and came under fire from rocket-propelled grenades, residents said.

Local medics said 41 bodies were found. The PDF said it lost 26 of its members.

State media have highlighted the scale of unrest across Myanmar with regular reports of localized clashes and arrests of opponents to military authorities.

At the end of June, armored vehicles were deployed to quell the outbreak of fighting in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second largest city.

Bombings have also increased in frequency, especially in Yangon, the former capital and still the business center. Across Myanmar, at least 12 of these attacks have already taken place in July, according to a Reuters tally. No group has claimed responsibility.

“Things risk tipping over into a garrison model with forays into the hinterland to deal with rebellious villagers rather than rule,” said Anthony Davis, security analyst for British intelligence firm Jane’s.

The military does not give casualties, but verified images shared on social media of soldiers killed in action made it clear that it was also taking casualties. An army spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment.

There are also signs that the insurgents are getting better equipment.

The military said it seized 100 guns last month and that those arrested with them confessed to obtaining weapons and training from the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). KIA did not respond to requests for comment.

The army has also accused two other armed ethnic groups of training its opponents. The factions did not respond.

Myanmar also has long borders with India, Thailand and China through which weapons have been smuggled in previous periods of conflict.

A spokesman for the Burmese army did not respond to calls seeking comment on the arming of his opponents. Reuters was also unable to reach members of the People’s Defense Forces for comment.

“Both sides face losses and losses, both sides fail. The question is which one can endure the longest,” Khin Zaw Win, director of the Tampadipa Institute’s policy think tank, told Yangon.

(Reporting by Reuters staff; writing by Matthew Tostevin; editing by Angus MacSwan)

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