Myanmar’s Women Warriors Fight for Democracy
By Yuzana 14 November 2022
After 18 months of the Spring Revolution, resistance forces around the country have become more sophisticated. Although they started the revolution against the Myanmar military using homemade rifles, now they can use automatic weapons like the AK-47 rifle, as well as drones. And women from various regions of the country are now among those who are fighting against the military regime.
Armed resistance started in late May last year, four months after the military seized power on February 1, 2021. Since then, resistance forces commonly known as People’s Defence Forces (PDF) have been formed around the country. Women are part of the PDFs, as well as working as medics, raising funds and supporting the PDF base camps.
Moreover, female-only units are being formed in some regions to fight against the military dictatorship. Myaung Women Warriors is one of those units, having been formed in October last year.
Myaung Women Warriors
Myaung Women Warriors (M2W), famous for its landmine attacks against junta troops in Sagaing Region, was formed by female civilians from Sagaing’s Myaung Township in order to eradicate the fascist dictatorship, as well as to show that women can be involved in the revolution and to promote the role of females, according to Amara Hmuee, the spokesperson for M2W.
There are 225 members in M2W, including striking teachers who are part of the Civil Disobedience Movement, university graduates and students and women from farming villages. They are aged between 18 and 45.
Although M2W comrades are sometimes involved in landmine attacks against junta forces, their main duty is to make mines and distribute them to the at least 22 PDFs currently operating in Myaung Township.
“The damage the mines can do depends on the type of mine. We choose which mine to use depending on the number of soldiers we are attacking. For example, we use a certain mine for military vehicles and we use another mine against infantry,” the twentysomething Amara Hmuee told The Irrawaddy.
She and the other members of M2W took part in military training and learned the techniques of making landmines before the all-women force was formed. Leaders from the Civilians Defense and Security Organization Myaung shared the techniques of making landmines that they had learned from the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). M2W fighters have been involved in mine attacks against regime forces since October 30, 2021.
“The men always want to fight and to take up arms. So there was some weakness in the production of mines. That’s why M2W decided to specialize in making mines,” said Amara Hmuee.
M2W produced 1,130 mines within a year and all were used in missions against junta forces. M2W has shared mines with all the resistance groups in Myaung Township. Moreover, some allied resistance forces from Chaung-U and Myinmu townships in Sagaing, Yesagyo in Magwe Region and Ngazun in Mandalay Region have also used M2W-made mines.
Since the formation of M2W, eight battles have been fought in cooperation with those allied forces and 85 soldiers have been killed in those clashes. Moreover, 21 mine attacks have been carried out and at least 139 junta troops have been killed and 37 injured.
Despite a lot of difficulties in making mines, M2W comrades do their best to supply plenty of mines to resistance groups.
“Although we haven’t encountered any difficulties with explosives, sometimes we have been in trouble in the weapons factory,” said Amara Hmuee.
“Once, we all had to run out of the factory because a fire broke out while we were making gunpowder.”
Nor were the M2W members experienced in the use of the welding and stone crushing machines used in the manufacture of mines. Some women suffered injuries to their hands while using the machines. Others have experienced combat.
“When I was at the frontline, an artillery shell landed near us and felled a big tree. I was really afraid because it was my first time under fire,“ Amara Hmuee recalled.
Ethnic women fighters
Some ethnic women have joined ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) such as the KIA, the Karen National Union, Karenni Nationalities Defense Force (KNDF) and the Chin Defence Force (CDF).
The KNDF Battalion 5 women’s unit was formed in May 2021 with dozens of members. The KNDF was the first EAO to form a female force after the coup.
A lot of women were keen to participate in the revolution, so the KNDF formed a female unit, according to Soe Myar, a spokesperson for the KNDF’s women’s unit. Its members are aged between 18 and 25. They were university and school students and striking teachers and civil servants before they took up arms.
Soe Myar, who is 18 and a former student from Kayah State, joined the KNDF’s female unit in August 2021 in order to destroy the military dictatorship.
“There are a lot of female combatants who go to the frontline. It’s not a strange thing that women are fighting at the frontline,” Soe Myar told The Irrawaddy.
The KNDF’s female fighters focus not only on fighting, but also act as medics and in other support roles. “We women fight the military by doing as much as we can in various sectors in the revolution,” said Soe Myar.
Like their female comrades in the KNDF, some women residents of Chin State have joined the CDF since last year.
Chin State has around 27 resistance groups. Some 16 – totaling 9,000 fighters in all – have joined forces with the Chinland Joint Defense Committee (CJDC). Around 500 women are currently in 13 resistance groups in Chin State, according to the CJDC.
CDF-Mindat has the most female members, with around 120 women in the group.
Most of the women in Chin PDFs and EAOs are former university and school students, according to Daisy, a member of CDF-Kanpetlet Battalion 1, which has around 90 female fighters.
“We don’t accept the military dictatorship. We want a system governed by the people that is accurate and fair,” Daisy told The Irrawaddy.
Daisy was a 22-year-old university student before she joined the CDF, where she works in administration. Some women comrades go to the frontline, while others support the fighters.
“It’s not just fighting in the revolution, but doing whatever you can to participate in the revolution,” said Daisy. She added that the revolution started from nothing and now there has been some progress in terms of weapons and finances.
Tiger Women Drone Force
Resistance forces, including M2W, also use drones to bomb regime targets.
Tiger Women Drone Force (TGR), part of the Myaung People Defense Force, has been attacking military convoys on the Mandalay-Monywa Road since August of this year.
TGR was formed in August 2022 with 15 members in order to fight junta troops like the male resistance fighters do.
“When the male combatants fight against the junta troops, the female PDF members want to do the same. So we formed the drone force to attack regime soldiers, as well as to show that women can fight in combat,” said Kyar Khin Sein, or Tiger Lady, the leader of the TGR.
Its members are women from various sectors and they spent a month training with the drones. TGR has two drones each worth almost US$5,000 and use bombs made by the Myaung People Defense Force.
The group conducts drone attacks in Sagaing, especially on military convoys using the Mandalay-Monywa Road. As of October, around 30 missions have been carried out and some 48 regime soldiers have been killed.
“All military reinforcements use the Mandalay-Monwya Road, so we want to cut access to the highway. That’s why we carry out drone attacks on it,” said TGR leader Kyar Khin Sein. But the group faces difficult and dangerous conditions when it carries out its attacks.
“We run when the regime scouts shoot at us while we are trying to bomb a military target,” recalled Kyar Khin Sein.
Women fighters are committed to the revolution
The women participating in the revolution will keep fighting the junta until it is gone and they want the public to believe in the resistance fighters.
“We want democracy. We are fighting the military to get freedom for our country. We hope all of the public will also fight for federal democracy,” Kyar Khin Sein told The Irrawaddy.
The men and women who join the PDFs are considered to be soldiers of the people and are ready to give their lives for the revolution, but they also need weapons and ammunition, added the TGR leader. She asked Myanmar people at home and abroad to make donations so that weapons can be bought for the resistance forces.
All of the resistance fighters are ready to sacrifice their lives and they believe strongly that the revolution must succeed.
“We want the public to stay strong because we will fight against the military dictatorship until the end,“ said KNDF female fighter Soe Myar.