Repeated interceptions of military convoys by resistance forces in Chin State have led to frequent roadside clashes in recent days and resulted in casualties on both sides, according to members of the anti-junta groups involved.
A group of some 30 vehicles travelling along the 40-mile northern Chin State road connecting Hakha to Falam has been struck multiple times last week, Chin National Front (CNF) spokesperson Salai Htet Ni told Myanmar Now.
More than 20 junta troops in the column and nine members of the resistance were killed during two days of fighting on May 4 and 5.
Five of the guerrilla fighters killed were from the CNF, and four were from the allied Chinland Defence Force (CDF) chapter in Thantlang, according to Salai Htet Ni.
He explained that the ambushes were particularly difficult to carry out, since the military column was reportedly transporting some 15 people from Hakha to Kalay Prison in neighbouring Sagaing Region. They had been accused by the military of being members of the CDF, the CNF spokesperson said.
“They wanted to use them as human shields so that we wouldn’t be able to shoot at them. We had to take extra caution to not hit the victims,” he told Myanmar Now. “That was the first time that they moved that many prisoners at once. The victims were kept in the car with their hands and feet cuffed, guarded by police officers.”
The military’s use of heavy artillery, as well as the heavy rains and a lack of geographical knowledge of the area by some of the resistance fighters all posed challenges to the ambushes, Salai Htet Ni said.
Troops from the same Myanmar army convoy are accused of burning more than 20 homes in two Falam Township villages along the road—Ramthlo and Tlangzar—before continuing towards their destination on Friday.
That day, the Chin National Defence Force—another resistance ally—warned members of the public not to use the Hakha-Falam road due to the imminent risk of fighting.
Battles have also been breaking out along the 100-mile road connecting Matupi and Mindat in southern Chin State since late April, Salai Ha Aum, the spokesperson for the CDF chapter in Mindat, told Myanmar Now.
Normally, it takes around eight hours to travel the mountainous route, he said. However, Chin resistance forces used explosives and guerrilla tactics to repeatedly ambush a convoy of more than 70 trucks and two tanks after they departed from Matupi on April 27. They reportedly were only able to travel a few miles each day over the 10 days that followed.
Citing a local resistance commander and a tactical officer present on the frontlines, Salai Ha Aum said that one member of his CDF chapter and at least 21 junta soldiers had been killed in the clashes along the road during that time.
“Those are the ones that we managed to find the bodies of,” he said on May 6, adding that the actual number of Myanmar army deaths may be higher.
Myanmar Now is unable to independently verify the Chin resistance forces’ reports of casualties along the two roads.
The military council does not typically release information regarding such matters.
Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been displaced by fighting over the past year, most of whom are in northwestern Myanmar. According to a May 6 statement released by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs more than 570,000 people had fled their homes nationwide as of April 25. Some 320,000 were from Chin State, Sagaing and Magway regions.