Civilian Fighters Killed; Shootouts Continue Amid Martial Law in Myanmar’s Chin State

By The Irrawaddy 14 May 2021

Ignoring a declaration of martial law, Chin State’s civilian resistance forces engaged in intensive shootouts with junta troops in the mountainous town Mindat on Friday. Two more members of the civilian resistance forces were killed in the fighting.

“Two of our members died in the shootouts at the east side of the town. One was killed by an artillery shell and another was shot dead by a junta sniper,” a member of Mindat Defense Force said.

Local residents said that they are not able to retrieve the two dead bodies or rescue the wounded since the junta troops that have deployed in the town are opening fire on anyone who appears on the streets.

“The junta troops are trying to enter into the town via both the west and east entrances while we are protecting our town. Fighting at the east side of the town is intensifying. Shootouts also occurred downtown,” the civilian resistance fighter said.

The civilian resistance fighters also reportedly seized about six military vehicles from Kyaukhtu that were approaching Mindat during the shootouts.

A viral video on social media shows weapons and provisions on about six vehicles abandoned by the fleeing junta troops being taken by the ethnically Chin civilian resistance fighters.

Local residents also said that at least five junta troops were reportedly killed during the shootouts on the east side of the town.

Fighting between junta troops and the Mindat Defense Force restarted Wednesday night after a ceasefire in late April broke down.

The military regime declared martial law for Mindat on Thursday night after bombarding the town with artillery in response to the residents’ week-long resistance.

Under martial law, those who commit one of 23 “offenses” in the town will be tried in military counts and face penalties ranging from death, indefinite jail terms with labor and the maximum possible punishments under existing legislation, said orders signed by the military regime’s secretary Lieutenant-General Aung Lin Dwe.

The 23 offenses also include high treason, sedition, obstruction of military personnel and civil servants performing their duties, possession of weapons, ties to unlawful associations and violence.

However, the martial law declaration has had no effect on the town since 60 percent of Mindat is under the control of its residents, said a member of Mindat’s People Administration.

“Our people do not accept the marital law. Currently, we are concentrating on the shootouts. We can govern the whole town, except the police station and some places,” a civilian resistance member said.

Since about 6 p.m. on Thursday, shootouts started on the Mindat-Matupi highway, which is located on the west side of the town.  Civilian resistance fighters conducted defensive actions against about 11 vehicles transporting 250 junta troops that were approaching Mindat for a raid.

Meanwhile shootouts have been happening on the highway connecting Chin State’s Mindat and Magwe Region’s Kyaukhtu on the east side of the town since Thursday morning. Civilian resistance fighters there are fighting against about 180 junta troops from Kyaukhtu of Magwe Region that are approaching the town.

Also, civilian resistance fighters resisting junta troops at the east side of the town have also been attacked by artillery based in Kyaukhtu, Magwe Region, 33 kilometers to the east, members of Mindat Defense Force told The Irrawaddy on Friday.

Mindat Defense Force said in its statement on Friday that the military has used reinforced troops, heavy explosives, artillery, rocket propelled grenades and automatic machine guns in the shootouts with civilian resistance fighters.

In the firefights, most civilian resistance fighters are using traditional percussion lock firearms, a kind of hunting rifle. The firearm uses technology dating back to the early 19th century.

On Friday, residents were suggested by the Mindat’s People Administration to dig bomb shelters as two military helicopters were hovering over the town.

On Thursday night, shootouts between junta troops and resistance fighters occurred at Mindat’s police station near the headquarters of the military’s Battalion 274. After the small firefights, junta troops continued random shooting in the downtown that night.

In Thursday’s conflicts, an ethnically Chin teenager was killed and six other members of Chin State’s civilian resistance forces were wounded by junta artillery.

Armed resistance by Mindat residents started on April 26 with an attack on the police station after junta forces broke promises to release seven young anti-regime protesters.

On April 26 and 27, the newly formed Mindat Defense Force attacked military reinforcements approaching the town using homemade percussion lock firearms, leaving at least 20 junta troops dead.

The military casualties led to talks with residents and a ceasefire in April.

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