Battles of resistance continue along the Monywa-Kalaywa Road 

Tens of thousands of residents from villages in southern Sagaing Region’s Yinmarbin and Kani townships have fled their homes since early April due to the junta’s brutal crackdowns in the area.

On April 20, a shootout between the regime’s armed forces and locals in Yinmarbin left at least five civilians dead and scores more injured. 

The clash was the fourth of its kind in less than one month. 

The troops were travelling to the villages of Theekone and Kapaing along the Monywa-Kalaywa road, when they were confronted by locals who tried to stop their advance. After the battle had finished, the soldiers occupied the Theekone pagoda compound and raided two other nearby villages: Thalauk and Winkone. 

Residents of more than 20 area villages in Yinmarbin have cleared out in response to the regime’s violence, including those in Thityabin, Tarwa, Chinpone, Chaungkauk,Thanmahtone, Inntha, Intaw, Kyopin, Lakkapyar, Shwe Lann, Sinte and Yinpaungtine.

The villages had hosted anti-dictatorship protests and rallies in support of the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH).

In neighbouring Kani Township, thousands of villagers, including women, children and the elderly, have fled ten villages– Chaungma, Leashay, Tayawkyinn, and Thabyay Aye– because of the dangers posed by the presence of the junta’s forces. 

A resident from Kani said that villages in his township and in Yinmarbin had been targeted because they have been strongholds of the ruling party ousted by the military, the National League for Democracy (NLD).

“They want to show that they can control the whole area,” the local said of the coup regime.

“The reds [NLD supporters] are very strong in this area. We will never submit [to the military].”

Checkpoints and blocking troop movements

In early April, around 200 of the junta’s troops surrounded Thabyay Aye village to arrest activist and Buddhist abbot U Thawpaka from the village’s monastery, but locals from Thabyay Aye and other surrounding villages resisted with homemade guns. 

Four villagers were killed during the fighting in Thabyay Aye, but rescuers were able to retrieve only two of the bodies. The military also suffered casualties, but Myanmar Now has been unable to confirm how many soldiers were killed. 

Abbot U Thawpaka, who was able to avoid arrest, said that although the homemade hunting rifles used by villagers were inferior to the junta’s weaponry, soldiers appeared to fear the armed resistance.

“They were seriously hurt in the battle of Thabyay Aye,” the abbot said of the troops. “The junta’s armed forces only dared to shoot at the heads of unarmed people. When the people mounted resistance through the use of weapons, they fled, and it was shameful.” 

A makeshift shelter made by an internally displaced resident of Kani Township who fled regime violence in their village in April (Supplied)

Before the Myanmar New Year water festival known as Thingyan– which began on April 13–  the junta’s armed forces arrived in Kani town, where anti-coup protests had taken place, and removed barricades set up by the civilians to slow their advances. 

The junta’s armed forces stationed themselves in the town and raided the houses of protest leaders, arresting those they could find, as well as their family members. 

Kani town’s residents responded by taking up positions at the entrances and exits of the town in an effort to block the army’s movements.

Youth-led civilian self-defence groups from area villages also set up checkpoints along the Monywa-Kalaywa Road in order to prevent the army’s reinforcements from arriving and to stop food supplies from reaching the troops.

On April 15, locals at one such checkpoint at the gate to Leashay village in Kani reportedly signalled a passing car to stop. Instead, it drove through, so the locals opened fire on the vehicle and detained the passengers.

According to documents found inside the car, the driver was an army major, a source close to the self-defence groups said.

Around 10 military trucks came from Monywa to rescue the detained major and his wife as well as to crack down on the self-defence groups.

The armed forces fired heavy artillery and machine guns at them, which locals resisted using homemade weapons including hunting rifles and air guns. 

Six civilians were killed in the battle at Laeshay village, according to residents who participated in the shootout. Again, it was reported that the army had suffered casualties, but the number of deaths could not be confirmed, as the bodies of soldiers were carried away by the armed forces after the battle ended. 

Junta-run newspaper the Global New Light of Myanmar reported on April 17 that 30 men were arrested after the shootout, and 19 homemade guns and five homemade grenades were seized.

The newspaper labelled the villagers as “rioters.”

According to the report, “the mob carried out violent attacks, so security forces use riot control weapons to intimidate and disperse the crowd.” 

The night after the battle at Leashay, the junta’s troops withdrew from Leashay and returned to Monywa. On April 17, the junta’s forces stormed nearby Chaungma village, causing the residents to flee. 

Civilians defend themselves with Tumi guns during a crackdown on the Tarhan protest camp in Kalay on March 28 (Supplied)

Guerrilla tactics over direct confrontation

Four residents were killed during another exchange of gunfire near Saywachaung and Taungtwinchaung villages on the Monywa-Kalaywa road on April 18 and 19. 

The road is the shortest route for trade across the Indian border.

“It is not a flat open area– there are small forests, hills and slopes. So the residents did not need to set up a fortification. When the junta’s army came, people gathered under the protection of the natural forest and hills to resist the army’s attack,” a resident of Kani town explained.  

On April 20, the junta’s army stormed Theekone and Kapaing villages, about four miles from the Monywa-Kalaywa Road.

During the battle at Theekone village, thousands of residents were mobilised and prepared to enter the fight, but the junta’s forces changed tactics and avoided direct confrontation, according to the residents. 

The military used drones to track down the villagers’ location and then fired heavy artillery at them. 

Five residents were killed and five others were injured. 

At the time of reporting, nearly 600 troops were stationed in villages in Yinmarbin and Kani townships. The army ordered residents of the area to immediately hand over any weaponry, including hunting rifles, but locals have refused to obey the order. 

While the villagers are outmatched with weaponry, they told Myanmar Now that they would continue their fight using guerilla tactics instead of direct confrontation with the military. 

The interim National Unity Government’s defence minister Yee Mon has said that the cabinet would set up a People’s Defence Army to resist the junta. Local defence forces have since been announced, including the Ayeyarwaddy Federation Army, Chin National Defense Force and the National Defense Force (Mon State). 

While residents of Yinmarbin and Kani have not formed an official defence force as part of this army, groups of around 50 people from affected villages are reportedly continuing their collective resistance. 

“We don’t have powerful weapons,” a man who participated in the battle at Saywachaung said. “There is no balance of power. But we will not give up hope as long as we are alive. We will continue our fight.”


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