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Article: Myanmar rebels battling junta seek to control India border

Myanmar rebels battling junta seek to control India border

Myanmar rebels battling junta seek to control India border

PHOTO CAPTION: Representational photo — Members of the People's Defense Forces (PDF) who became guerrilla fighters after being protesters are seen on the front line in Kawkareik, Myanmar December 31, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer



(Reuters) -Anti-junta fighters in Myanmar's Chin state are trying to gain control of part of the porous border with India, after taking over two military outposts on the mountainous frontier, a rebel commander said, part of a wider offensive against the junta.

Dozens of rebels battled the Myanmar military from dawn to dusk on Monday to overrun two camps next to India's Mizoram state, Chin National Front (CNF) Vice Chairman Sui Khar said.

Spokespersons for Myanmar's military and India's foreign ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Myanmar's generals are facing their biggest test since taking power in a 2021 coup after three ethnic minority forces launched a coordinated offensive in late October, capturing some towns and military posts.

The military-appointed president last week said Myanmar was at risk of breaking apart because of an ineffective response to the rebellion - the most significant fight back since the 2021 coup deposed the democratically elected government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

The generals say they are fighting "terrorists".

The offensive, named by rebels as "Operation 1027" after the date it began, initially made inroads in junta-controlled areas on the border with China in Shan State, where military authorities have lost control of several towns and more than 100 security outposts.

"We are continuing our attacks in northern Shan State," said Kyaw Naing, a spokesperson for the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, which is part of the operation.

Fighting also erupted on two new fronts this week, in the western states of Rakhine and Chin, which sent thousands of people fleeing to Mizoram.

About 80 rebels mounted attacks on Rihkhawdar and Khawmawi military camps in Chin at around 4 a.m. on Monday, eventually taking control of both outposts after several hours of fighting, Sui Khar said.

Following the rebel attacks, 43 Myanmar soldiers crossed over to the Indian side and were held by Indian security forces in Mizoram, police official Lalmalsawma Hnamte said.

Some 39 of those troops were flown by Indian forces to a border crossing point in neighbouring Manipur state and handed over to Myanmar authorities, a federal security official said on condition of anonymity as he was not allowed to share details of the incident.

India's federal home ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

Sui Khar and the Chin Human Rights Organisation said they believed some of these soldiers may have been involved in atrocities against civilians. They did not elaborate.

Chin rebels will now look to consolidate their control along the India-Myanmar border, where the Myanmar military has two more camps, Sui Khar said.

"We'll move forward," he told Reuters, "Our tactic is from the village to the town to the capital."

Chin State, which had been largely peaceful for years, saw fierce fighting after the 2021 coup by junta leaders with thousands of residents taking up arms, many of them assisted and trained by the CNF.

The Chin rebellion was backed by locals in Mizoram, in part due to close ethnic ties, and tens of thousands of people from Myanmar sought shelter in the small Indian state, including ousted state and federal lawmakers.


A resident in Rakhine's capital Sittwe and social media posts said that tanks had been seen on the streets of the city following the eruption of fighting in the western state.

The junta has imposed a curfew in Sittwe and residents have been ordered not to leave their homes after 9 p.m. and businesses must close by 8.30 p.m. or face legal action, according to a government document and media reports.

"We saw tanks going around the town. Many shops are closed today," a resident told Reuters, declining to be named for security reasons.

"The schools are open but families did not send their kids to school today."

Fighting was occurring across Rakhine state, according to two residents and a spokesperson for the Arakan Army (AA), a group fighting for greater autonomy that has seized military posts in Rathedaung and Minbya towns.

A Rathedaung resident told Reuters on Tuesday the area came under artillery fire overnight and that military soldiers had entered the town.

"Artillery fell on a street in Rathedaung town last night. No immediate report of injured or casualties yet," said the resident, who asked not to be identified.

"People have started fleeing the town. Soldiers are in the town now."

(Reporting by Reuters staff and Chanchinmawia in MIZORAM; Additional reporting by Krishn Kaushik in NEW DELHI; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor and Devjyot Ghoshal; Editing by Michael Perry, Raju Gopalakrishnan and Nick Macfie)



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