Junta Enlists Indian Insurgent Groups to Fight Resistance Forces in Western Myanmar
By The Irrawaddy 2 February 2022
Resistance groups in Chin State have long alleged that separatist insurgent groups from northeast India have been fighting for the Myanmar military in Chin State, as well as in neighboring Sagaing Region.
Meitei armed groups from the northeast Indian state of Manipur who operate inside Myanmar have also joined hands with the junta. Meanwhile, the Zomi Revolutionary Organization/Zomi Revolutionary Army (ZRO/ZRA), which has been operating as a people’s militia as part of an agreement with the Indian government, has raided the bases of resistance groups in Chin State. In January, the ZRA clashed with the Chin National Front/ Chin National Army (CNF/CNA), an ethnic armed resistance organization fighting the military regime.
Local resistance groups have alleged that the ZRO/ZRA has reached an understanding with the junta. But the group has denied working for any army or any dictatorial government.
Chin State and adjacent Sagaing Region have been the most restive areas in Myanmar since last year’s February 1 coup. A combination of People’s Defense Forces (PDF) and ethnic armed organizations, particularly the CNA, are fighting against junta troops. The CNF/CNA signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) with U Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government in October 2015. But since the formation of the shadow National Unity Government (NUG), the CNF/CNA has joined hands with the NUG in the people’s revolution against the regime.
In January, the ZRA engaged in clashes with the combined forces of the CNA and local PDFs in Tedim Township, Chin State. The ZRA lost at least four fighters during the clash.
CNF spokesperson Salai Htet Ni recently talked to The Irrawaddy about the operations of militant Indian separatist groups in Myanmar.
Can you tell us about the fighting with the ZRO/ZRA in Tedim Township?
Regarding the ZRO/ZRA, we only knew that it was a group rebelling against the Indian government. They have a ceasefire agreement with the Indian government and operate as people’s militia in India. But they also operate in Myanmar, where they are known as the eastern ZRO.
Zomi tribes live in Tedim as well as India. As they operate as the eastern ZRO in Myanmar, they have always threatened us to make us withdraw from our strongholds. We have done nothing to them. But when we conducted clearance operations with local resistance groups [in Tedim] we encountered them, which resulted in a clash.
They have threatened us since 1995, 1996 to withdraw from our strongholds. At that time, they were not yet based on Myanmar side of the border. We made Tedim our base after reaching an agreement with the previous military junta.
But they [ZRO/ZRA] have become more active in 2020 and 2021. They have abducted some of our troops, detained them for a while and told them not to stay in Tedim. This has forced us to conduct clearance operations to protect our region and our troops.
We heard that the eastern ZRO formed a battalion on January 16. Will this lead to frequent clashes with them?
It largely depends on them. We are very sorry that the ZRA is conducting military operations together with the military regime. One of the reasons why we clashed with the ZRA is that, before the clash, we learned that they often visit Myanmar military units based in Tedim. They carried out two mine attacks on our CNF office, which was opened after we signed the NCA.
If they continue doing that, we will defend ourselves and repulse their attacks. Whether there are more clashes will depend on them.
Does the CNF plan to hold talks with the ZRA?
It depends on their stance. But it will be very difficult for us to hold talks with them given the fact that they have apparently reached an understanding with the military regime. Under the current situation, we have no plans to hold talks with them. But we will be sad if people are harmed due to clashes. We will try our best to stand by the people.
We heard that there was a clash with Meitei armed groups in Tonzang Township in mid-January. Can you talk about that?
There are local resistance groups in Tonzang. We cooperate with them for state security. We won’t accept foreign armed groups growing [opium] poppy on our land. It is our national duty to prevent it. Some groups are doing drug business after reaching an understanding with the military regime. The clashes happened when we carried out security operations there.
Does the CNF believe that the junta is mobilizing separatist groups from India to crush resistance groups in Chin?
Yes, it is true. Earlier, the regime also did the same in Kale and Tamu [towns in Sagaing Region bordering India]. The military is involved in the drug trade. The ZRA has disrupted military training for resistance fighters in Tedim. They have destroyed resistance bases and detained or killed their leaders—acts similar to those committed by the regime. If they continue to do that, it will pose a threat to our people and the security of our state. We CNF and local resistance groups will work together and try our best to prevent that happening.
We will not just stand by and watch when the military is cooperating with rebel groups from another country. We will defend our people, and work to eliminate military dictatorship as desired by the people. We will prevent the junta from cooperating with foreign rebel groups as a national security duty.
You may also like these stories: