Taking a Walk with Myanmar’s Anti-Junta Activists
In between battles with the military, Myanmar anti-junta volunteers practice firing their handmade weapons, undertake physical training, and play guitar in their camp hidden in the forested hills of Kayah state near the Thai border.
Since the military deposed Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected administration in February and unleashed a deadly assault on pro-democracy demonstrations, Myanmar has been in chaos.
In certain locations, residents have created “defense forces” to fight the junta’s State Administration Council, which uses hunting rifles and weapons made in makeshift factories.
On condition of anonymity, a member of the camp’s defence force told AFP, “I’ve been gone from my family for more than three months.”
“After this revolution, I shall return home.”
During that period, he added, the group of about 60 people had engaged in about twenty confrontations with the Myanmar military, or Tatmadaw.
Because communication in the country’s eastern states is spotty, AFP was unable to confirm the number of battles.
According to the UN, fighting between Myanmar’s military and rebel groups in the country’s east has displaced an estimated 100,000 people since the coup.
Locals in Kayah state have accused the military of shelling villages with artillery munitions.
That only strengthened their resolve to take up guns.
A tattoo across the neck of one volunteer reads, “We shall never forget and forgive until the end of the world.”
Another’s wooden gun has the Burmese script “Spring Revolution” engraved into the butt and barrel.
The volunteers go on patrol in a combination of combat camouflage and T-shirts, following single track roads across the craggy highlands.
At a makeshift firing range, they practice firing their mishmash of weapons.
During downtime, one person sits on a seat and plays guitar, while another checks his weapon inside a tent.
According to a local monitoring group, the junta’s security forces have killed around 890 individuals since February 1.
Analysts estimate that hundreds of anti-coup demonstrators from Myanmar’s towns and cities have gone into insurgent-held areas to obtain military training, in addition to the emergence of local self-defense units.
In conflicts with Myanmar’s military, which is one of Southeast Asia’s most battle-hardened and merciless, civilian fighters are frequently outmanned and outgunned.
The volunteers, on the other hand, are adamant about continuing to fight.
“We will win if we all fight,” one said to AFP.
“I believe we have a chance to win.”