President of pro-military Kayah state party stabbed to death
âWe are happy when we are at war, but it’s not because we like to kill people,â said Hsaw Reh, a young Karenni who joined the armed resistance against Myanmar’s military regime.
As a member of the Generation Z Karenni Army (KGZA), 22-year-old Hsaw Reh (assumed name) is part of a new movement that has emerged since the February 1 coup.
The KGZA, which operates as a unit of the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force (KNDF), is made up mostly of young people who had never even considered engaging in armed conflict before this year, despite having grew up under military rule.
Before the army took power, Hsaw Reh happily pursued a career as a teacher. He was studying at a higher education institution and working as a tutor when tanks landed in the capital Naypyitaw, crushing his generation’s hopes for a more democratic future.
I am fighting now with the intention of preventing this from happening again for the children to come – Hsaw Reh, a Karenni resistance fighter
While this event changed everything for him and others who came of age during Myanmar’s decade of relative freedom, his goal remains the same: to ensure that today’s children have a life. better than those that came before them.
âI am really proud of myself. Thanks to my decision, I was able to meet my brothers in arms, and this is something close to my heart. I am fighting now with the intention of preventing this from happening again for the children to come, âhe said.
Like countless others across the country, Hsaw Reh did not immediately turn to armed resistance to fight the regime. It was the junta’s use of lethal force against peaceful demonstrators that convinced it to take up arms.
“It shook me deep inside me when I saw the crackdown happening. Bullets were flying right in front of me. But we continued to organize more protests, while our elders began to organize armed resistance,” he recalled.
It was the death of his friend’s father, killed during a crackdown in Loikaw on March 19, that ultimately forced Hsaw Reh to join the fighters on the front lines.
It shook me deep inside, seeing the crackdown happening. Bullets were flying right in front of me – Hsaw Reh
His decision did not meet with his family’s approval. His father, a Lance Corporal, and some of his siblings live together in the army barracks, so it has not been easy for him to join a conflict that has placed him and them on the line. in opposing camps.
âIn fact, my father wanted to join the Civil Disobedience Movement, but he said he couldn’t just leave because he had children in the army,â Hsaw Reh explained.
A new force is born
Serious fighting erupted in northern Kayah (Karenni) state on May 21 and quickly spread to Pekhon and Moebye townships in southern Shan state.
It was at the end of this month that the KNDF was formed to consolidate the dispersed resistance forces operating across the region.
âIt gave us a much greater unified force. Plus, we no longer have any confusion over who is who. Because we are now working as a team, we can complete tasks and solve problems even faster, âsaid a spokesperson for KNDF.
In total, the KNDF has a total of 19 battalions under its command. There are also a number of other People’s Defense Forces (PDF) groups active in the region that have not joined the KNDF, but are working with them as allies.
Hsaw Reh, who fought in Demoso township in Kayah state before the formation of the KNDF, said these early clashes cost the regime dearly, despite the fact that the Karenni fighters were largely overwhelmed.
âWe had to take turns shooting during the battles. It wasn’t until a few days later that we all started sourcing handmade rifles, âhe said, adding that it was their superior knowledge of the local terrain and their unit as a force. of combat which allowed them to inflict heavy losses.
âWe managed to kill around two or three hundred soldiers. There was fighting every day, and they lost at least two or three soldiers in each battle. At Kyaukse Kan, Moebye and Sanpya 6 Miles, we really put them through hell, âhe recalls.
After losing up to 80 troops in the first few days alone, the military responded with airstrikes and mortar fire. Then he started targeting civilians, destroying not only their homes but also churches and other buildings where they took refuge.
Three weeks of bombing and aerial bombardment by the military resulted in the destruction of 220 houses and other structures in the townships of Loikaw, Demoso and Moebye and displaced an estimated 100,000 civilians, according to the United Nations.
It was at this point that Hsaw Khu, 38, a father of two, decided to join the resistance.
We have our future to fight for – Hsaw Khu, 38, Karenni resistance fighter
After spending a decade in Thailand, he returned to his home state of Kayah just five years ago to start a furniture business. But the coup shattered his peaceful family life and his dreams of prosperity.
When his house was razed to the ground by army bombardments, Hsaw Khu did not hesitate. He took his wife and sons, aged nine and five, to a safe place and became a full-time soldier of the revolution.
âWe have to fight for our future,â he said.
On June 15, the KNDF agreed to a temporary ceasefire after losing only 13 of its forces since the fighting began. The group accepted the deal, which was negotiated by local church leaders, in order to ease the pressure on the civilian population.
Many of those who returned to their homes and shops after the ceasefire took effect found that they had been looted by regime forces. In the municipalities of Demoso and Moebye, they also discovered the mutilated corpses of at least 20 civilians.
Despite the ceasefire, civilian casualties continue to increase. By mid-August, junta troops had killed a total of 82 people in the area, according to a network of local civil society groups.
While the KNDF has refrained from launching new offensives, the Karenni Army (KA), the armed wing of the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), has repeatedly clashed with the Burmese army since fighting erupted near Pun Chaung, a village on the Loikaw-Shartaw Highway, on July 2.
Two weeks later, on July 16, KNDF forces joined KA as it engaged regime forces near the village of Nan Phe in Bawlakhe commune. The two Karenni armed groups have been cooperating since then.
“We have a common enemy, so we have to help each other,” Now Khu Daniel, KNPP secretary 1, told Myanmar. He stressed, however, that the KNDF did not join the KA, but remains an independent force.
âWe have been fighting against the dictatorship for 70 years. Now that many more are joining us in the fight, it has made it easier for us. We all have the same goal, after all, âhe added.
The Karenni State Consultative Council (KSCC), a body formed on April 9 and composed of elected members of parliament and representatives of political parties, armed groups and civil society organizations, recognized the KNDF as a defense force. of State.
For its part, the KNDF says it is ready to do its part to overthrow the regime.
Regarding the resumption of fighting and its impact on civilians, a spokesperson for the group urged his fellow citizens to endure the trials for as long as it takes to achieve victory.
âWe must seize this opportunity to end this once and for all. If we cannot overcome these drawbacks, we will have to live with this corrupt system for the rest of our lives, âhe said.
For those who have joined the ranks of the KNDF, this message has fallen on impatient ears.
If we cannot overcome these drawbacks, we will have to live with this corrupt system for the rest of our lives – KNDF spokesperson
“Mary”, 19, left her home to join the protests in February and is now part of a KNDF battalion that includes four other young women, aged 19 to 25.
Measuring just five feet and weighing barely 100 pounds, the former freshman at Loikaw University says she and her classmates are in high spirits as they prepare for war.
“I’m not quite happy with myself because I haven’t been in a real battle yet, but I’m happy for those who are fighting right now,” she said.