Fears of escalation after Myanmar air raids near India border | Military News

On the afternoon of January 10, Van Bawi Mang, a member of an armed resistance group against the Myanmar army, was resting in his barracks at a camp on the country’s northwestern border with India when A loud bang pulled him back to reality. war.

He crept into a nearby ditch as jet fighters flew overhead, glass shattering with the echoes of falling bombs.

The camp, known as Camp Victoria, serves as the headquarters of the Chin National Front (CNF), an armed nationalist organization that has continued the struggle for autonomy inactive after Myanmar’s military ascended the country. took power in a coup in February 2021.

CNF has also affiliated with the nationwide pro-democracy movement, fighting side by side newer resistance groups was established in response to the coup.

Even after the jet retreated on January 10, Van Bawi Mang and his comrades spent a sleepless night huddled in moats and bunkers throughout the camp, fearing more attacks. attack.

The night passed without further incidents, but the army attacked again the next afternoon. In total, five CNF members were killed in the two attacks and the camp’s buildings suffered significant damage, including housing for families and a medical center.

Myanmar’s military has not made any statement about the attacks, which come amid months of escalating fighting in Chin state. Although the military has increased its use of air strikes in recent months, the incident marked the first time it had targeted the headquarters of a resistance group.

The attacks not only highlighted the generals’ increasingly brazen efforts to root out resistance to their rule, but also showed their willingness to venture close to the border. west of the country to do so.

Camp Victoria is located next to the Tiau River, separating Myanmar from the Indian state of Mizoram. According to CNF, local Mizo organizations and international research and advocacy organizations, the latest attack violated India’s airspace and land. strengthen rights.

Myanmar Witness, an independent non-profit organization that uses open source data to investigate human rights incidents, Find The attacks were an “almost certain intrusion into Indian airspace” as well as a “probable attack on India’s sovereign territory”.

CNF soldiers sit in a circle on the ground outside Camp Victoria before the attack
Camp Victoria, near Myanmar’s northwestern border with India, is the headquarters of the Chin National Front, an ethnic armed group that fights against the military regime [Courtesy of CNF]

The statement was also made by the Government of National Unity, the Myanmar government that includes elected politicians removed in the coup and other pro-democracy figures. In a statement dated January 17, the administration called on neighboring countries to prevent the military from using their airspace “in the interest of regional peace and security and the protection of civilians”.

In a press conference on January 19, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of India denied reports that the Myanmar army had violated the country’s airspace but admitted that a bomb had fallen on the bed of the Tiau River near the village of Farkawn in India. Champhai district of Mizoram.

“Such incidents near our border concern us,” the spokesman said, adding that the ministry had “resolved the issue with the Myanmar side”.

Meanwhile, in Mizoram, the attacks not only spurred demonstrations of solidarity, including a concert, but also sparked outrage among local organisations. The Mizo people share close ethnic ties to their Chin neighbors and since the coup, the state has taken in more than 40,000 refugees despite a lack of financial support from the central government.

The bombings also seem to have strengthened Chin’s resistance. “We can sleep anywhere. We can rebuild our camp again. That’s not the main thing,” said Van Bawi Mang.

” [The military] thought their bombs could defeat us, but they were wrong. The main thing is the spirit, the ownership of the land…That will be our main weapon.”

Multiple attacks from the air

[Below, could we please say when this was that the military gunned down hundreds of protesters?

The military’s attempts to destroy resistance to its power have similarly backfired since the coup. When the military gunned down hundreds of unarmed protesters, it only strengthened the armed resistance. The military has retaliated by raiding, burning and bombing villages, but resistance forces have continued to gather momentum.

In response, the military appears to have stepped up its use of air attacks – a forthcoming report from Myanmar Witness, based on an analysis of open-source data, shows increased reporting of such strikes in the latter part of 2022.

Shona Loong, a lecturer at the University of Zurich who specialises in the political geography of armed conflict, told Al Jazeera that the military’s bombing of Camp Victoria illustrates an approach it has used for decades to try to quell resistance in the country’s border areas, where a few ethnic armed organisations are based.

“The recent airstrikes still testify to the military’s view of Chin resistance forces as ‘terrorists’ that must be crushed, even if doing so incurs a significant civilian toll,” she said, adding that the attacks were likely to “energise the resistance even further”.

As in many military attacks, the bombing of Camp Victoria affected several civilian targets, including a hospital whose roof was marked with a red cross, recognised as a symbol of protection under international humanitarian law.

Hospital beds in a room with broken glass and some debris on the floor after an air strike
A hospital, clearly marked with a red cross on the roof, was damaged in the air raids [Supplied]

A doctor who helped set up the facility and spoke on condition of anonymity because of safety concerns said that since opening in August 2021, the hospital has served more than 5,000 patients, most of them residents. usually from either side of the India-Myanmar border.

“We chose Camp Victoria because there are no air attacks, it is the safest place in the entire Chin State,” he said. “We don’t think an inhuman act like bombing a civilian hospital would ever happen.”

In response to the bombings, the CNF said it condemns “in the strongest possible terms these heinous and cowardly acts”.

The bombings, it said in a statement published on January 13, had “made the ongoing revolution irreversible”.

Escalation activation

More than 30,000 people have died in political violence in Myanmar since the coup, according to estimates by the Armed Conflict Location and Events Data Project, an international crisis mapping nonprofit.

Salai Za Uk Ling, deputy director of the Chin Foundation for Human Rights, told Al Jazeera that he expected the conflict in Chin state to “clearly escalate” and that the attacks were “naive considering the level of determination”. and commitment of Chin resistance from the very beginning. “.

The attacks, which forced about 250 others to flee across the border, also had an impact in Mizoram. Since the coup, community groups have organized a grassroots humanitarian response to the influx of refugees.

But while Mizo communities welcome newcomers, the Camp Victoria bombing has caused alarm for different reasons.

C Lalramliana, the chairman of the Farkawn Village Council, told Al Jazeera that since a week after the bombing, villagers seem to avoid the Tiau River unless they really have to go there.

Two men collecting sand from a riverbank on January 10 said Myanmar’s attacks put their lives at risk.

TC Lalhmangaihsanga was loading a truck with sand when he heard three explosions. He said the third landed about 50 meters (164 ft) from his truck – a shrapnel pierced the driver’s metal cabin wall from behind, penetrated the driver’s headrest and shattered the glass. windbreak.

Vanlalmuana Hramlo, who owns and drives a tractor, was on his way back to the village with a pile of sand when he heard an explosion. “I was afraid that when we were driving uphill, [the Myanmar military] maybe think we’re on the run and they might shoot at us,” he said.

Mizo community organizations have spoken out strongly against the attacks.

“It was a painful attack on our great homeland of India, by jet fighters that terrified Indian farmers, sand shovelers and ordinary people,” a statement from a regional branch of the Young Mizo Association (YMA), one of the state’s organizations, said. most influential group.

Two Myanmar army jets fire missiles during a joint military and air force exercise of Myanmar near Magway in January 2019
Upcoming analysis of open source Myanmar Witness data shows that Myanmar’s military has increased its air strikes on adversaries by the end of 2022. [File: AFP]

Meanwhile, a committee of six Mizo organizations, including the YMA, described the bombings as “an act of disrespect and a direct challenge to India’s sovereignty and a violation of its human rights.” Indian citizens in general and Mizo people in particular”.

The statements reflect broader disagreement in responses to the coup from Mizoram and India’s central government.

The Mizoram State government from the very beginning expressed solidarity with the people of Myanmar and provided safe haven for the refugees. In contrast, the central government initially sought to “stop the possible influx of refugees into” the country’s northeastern states and has maintained diplomatic relations with Myanmar’s top military generals.

Angshuman Choudhury, a fellow at the Center for Policy Studies in New Delhi who focuses on Myanmar and northeastern India, told Al Jazeera that the Camp Victoria bombing is unlikely to spur the central government of the country. India changed its policy towards Myanmar.

“Over the past year or so, the Indian government has forged ties with the Myanmar military regime to advance its own economic and strategic interests,” he said. “A bombing along the border is unlikely to affect that.”

Committed to the resistance

Leading up to the Camp Victoria attacks, the CNF warned of the dangers of such an incident. On November 2, a military reconnaissance plane flew over the camp; secret military documents leaked the same week that revealed plans to attack 14 of the camp’s buildings.

Members of the Chin resistance told Al Jazeera that the Indian government’s initial silence after the bombings led to mistrust and a feeling of abandonment.

However, the CNF offered an olive branch in its January 13 statement.

“Our neighbors should realize that doing business as usual with the junta is neither sustainable nor strategic for their long-term interests. The future belongs to the people and the revolution,” it said.

A Chin officer holds an attendance sign with a red, white and blue flag in the center of the parade area
Chin leaders, who protest against the 2021 coup, want India to review its agreements with Myanmar’s military [Supplied]

Chin resistance leaders told Al Jazeera that they hope to be able to engage actively with India in the near future.

“We believe that India is also responsible for our survival and our struggle for freedom, as a good neighbor and also a good neighbor,” said Salai Ceu Bik Thawng, CNF adviser. a democratic country. “It would be very welcome if they could assist.”

Sui Khar, vice president of CNF-3, said he hoped India would realize it would benefit from joining Myanmar’s resistance.

“India should also realize that they can’t achieve their policy, their goal is just to have a good relationship with Naypyidaw,” he said, referring to the large capital the generals have built for in the former military regime.

“They have to engage with other stakeholders.”


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