Magwe Region has emerged as a resistance stronghold since the February coup last year and suffered numerous regime airstrikes and arson attacks.
Bo Letyar, commander of People’s Defense Force Battalion 1 in Myaing Township, recently talked to The Irrawaddy about the conflict, how the regime is changing its tactics and how strong the revolutionary spirit is among residents.
What is the military situation in Myaing?
Junta troops are operating in the area but there are fewer engagements now as both sides seek to carry out surprise attacks against the other.
There were frequent mine attacks on junta convoys but they are barely reported now. The regime is increasingly conducting air raids. How is the situation changing?
Before junta troops came on foot and air support came only after they were attacked. Now aircraft come first to provide security for the ground troops.
In response, we spread out our forces to cover wider areas and avoid heavy damage. We have purchased weapons with donations from villagers. But we still don’t have enough weapons.
Ammunition is more important than arms because we need to restock after every battle and people can’t donate that much. Mines are more cost-effective and we use them in a lot of ambushes.
Junta troops have learned lessons and they do not take roads and paths anymore. Instead, they travel through forests so we changed our tactics too.
After they suffered a few mine attacks, they started taking tiny paths through forests and mountains.
But we know the terrain and attack when we can. The revolution is part of our life now, like farming, something we do for a living.
How much of Myaing Township is in resistance hands?
The regime’s administrative mechanism is not functioning and what it is doing is raiding villages from time to time. Villagers suffer as they flee their homes when the troops come. We avoid them and set up ambushes.
Sagaing and Magwe regions are revolutionary hotspots. The regime has used a lot of violence. How strong is the revolutionary spirit of the people?
When they wake, people are not thinking about their businesses and livelihoods but about how to fight more effectively. It has become part of life, like eating and sleeping. We wake up with that thought and go to bed with the same thought.
Everyone, including children, opposes the regime. It is not strange that we are engaged in the revolution. The greater the violence they commit against us, the more bitter our hatred and the greater efforts we will make to fight them.
Those whose houses were torched have joined us to fight. We don’t care about their attempts to instill fear in us.
The more they attempt to instill fear in us, the fiercer response they will see from us. We don’t care if we die fighting. Others will fill the gaps.
Please tell us about your military operations in Magwe.
We cooperate with other groups, mostly to raid police stations. We have raided police stations in Pauk, Myaing and other townships with other groups.
We did not sleep that night and we walked for more than four hours through the night to reach the target.
The civilian National Unity Government (NUG) has often been criticized for giving out secret military details and resistance groups say they are attacked more after the NUG talked about them. What is your view?
The NUG might have weaknesses as it oversees operations across the country. We have received supplies from the NUG.
But it is not in a position to supply large amounts of weapons and we cannot blame it for that. There are a lot of difficulties in distributing arms.
Rather than blaming others, we should think about how we can do our best. We started the revolution out of nothing and we have to make do with what we have.
How many people have been displaced by the fighting in Myaing?
I am afraid more than 10,000 people have been displaced. Junta troops torch nearby villages after mine attacks or ambushes.
They are not torching houses after their arson attacks made international headlines. They enter villages at night and destroy houses from the inside.
Junta troops avoid confrontations with us these days as we have grown stronger. When they are outnumbered, they retreat instead of trying to repulse us.
If they face frequent mine attacks near a village, they avoid that village. Some villagers were deeply resentful and planted mines in their houses if they thought junta troops would raid and loot their homes.
What is the goal of your group and what is the driving force pushing you towards that goal?
We have lost many technicians and academics and we know the regime is unjust. Those who have lost their lives include doctors, engineers and poets who are much more knowledgeable than us. So there is no reason for us to stop until the end.
We will die one day so it is better to die meaningfully. Will we let ourselves be subjected to dictatorship or will we rise in revolt?
We are fighting to give this message to the people. It would be best if we won this fight and survive. But I will still be proud of myself if the younger generation has this mentality, even if we die and we cannot finish the revolution. But we strongly believe we will succeed.