Fresh offensive, resistance forces gains in key bordering towns near India
In a major development the ongoing anti-regime offensive in Myanmar has led to the capture of the strategic Khampat town in the Sagaing division by the Peoples’ Democratic Force (PDF)-Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Chinland Defence Force (CDF). Situated close to the India-Myanmar border in Moreh, the Khampat town which forms a key route on the Asian Highway 1 and which is also key to India’s Act East policy was taken after an intense battle lasting for well over four days beginning on November 10. Myanmar’s National Unity Government (NUG) in exile issued a statement on Tuesday announcing the capture of the town from the military junta.
The capture of Khampat town by the NUG led PDF with support for ethnic armed groups follows the capture of two other key towns that is Pinlebu and Kawlin. The PDF’s advances in Sagaing comes in the backdrop of a ‘Operation 1027’ a fierce anti-regime offensive launched by the Brotherhood Alliance comprising of the Arakan Army (AA), Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) in the northern Shan state since October 27.
Several junta outposts – as many as 168 and as many as eight towns have been captured since the launch of ‘Operation 1027’ in the Northern Shan state. So far there are no figures on the count of surrendered junta forces, those released, or those who have taken refuge in hiding.
While these gains made by the PDF and ethnic groups do not necessarily mean that the Myanmar junta is turning a corner, it however does provide clear signs of weakening of the State Administrative Council (SAC) under the command of Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. All over Myanmar, particularly towards the north and north west vital military positions and installations have been taken over by the Three Brotherhood Alliance.
The fall of Khampat on Tuesday afternoon to resistance fighters, operating in the NUG’s Military Region 1 based in Sagaing’s Tamu District also comes alongside a similar offensive launched jointly by the PDF, CDF and the Chin National Army (CNA) between Sunday (November 12) to Wednesday (November 14). Two Burmese junta bases RiKhawdar and Khawmawi which are situated seven kilometers away from the India-Myanmar border in Zowkhawthar in Mizoram were taken over after overpowering the junta men manning these outposts.
In the Rakhine state as many as four Burmese junta bases fell to the AA following a series of offensives since November 1. The AA took over the Kyauktaw town police station on Wednesday (November 15) morning. The battle for Kyauktaw which is situated 65 miles (105 km) from the north of Sittwe, the capital city of Rakhine, started on Monday (November 13). As many as 26 policemen and their Officer-in-Charge surrendered with arms and ammunitions to the AA.
With the recent ceasefire between the Burmese junta and the AA broken, the latter has launched an all-out attack on military bases all over Rakhine. Two Burmese army camps in Rathedaung and Minbya have been taken over by the AA which led to the arrest of two junta officers a major and a captain. Further, AA cadres captured two camps between Maungdaw and Sittwe road belonging to the Burmese army and Border Guards.
An AA official was of the opinion that “This is just the beginning.” “Wait and see what will happen after a few days” was his reaction to a question on whether the ouster of the Burmese junta is inevitable. The AA leader is convinced that the Burmese army’s ground reinforcements has waned and it is “completely dependent on its air power.”
Given the chronology of events, the fall of northern Shan state to the Resistance onslaught led by the Three Brotherhood Alliance seems imminent. The taking over of Kunlong (a major hub on a Myanmar-China trade route) and major camps in Muse, Hsipaw and Hseni townships are all tell-tell signs of the advances the rebel groups have made.
The fall of Kunlong assumes great significance as it has been a strategic town for the Burmese junta throughout its history of military rule going back to the days of Gen Ne Win. Kunlong town is located near the Chinese border with a sprawling regime’s army base on the outskirts of the town, which has now been overrun by the rebel resistance groups. Huge amounts of arms and ammunitions which include lightweight 155mm Howitzers, artillery tanks, 122 MLRS and rocket launchers were also recovered by the rebels.
The last stronghold which is Laukkaing/Laukkai – the regime’s headquarters located here – a key junta stronghold in the Kokang self-administered zone, near the Chinese border is now the next target for the MNDAA. On November 15, the MNDAA announced an attack on Laukkai. The outfit said it was besieging the town and issued a warning to reduce civilian casualties during the fighting. Laukkai is a notorious nest of online and offline casinos and telecom scams.
Notably, the offensives in the Northern Shan state is taking place at the site of the proposed China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC), a pillar of the Belt and Road Initiative.
Fighting has reached Maymyo/Pyin Oo Lwin (Mandalay region) which is home to extensive military establishments and a military academy. Nearby Lashio is under attack and the airport is totally closed. The Burmese army is defending to prevent Lashio being taken over by the Three Brotherhood Alliance. Outside Lashio, camps have been set up by the alliance.
The Mogok township in the Thabeikkyin district of Mandalay region is also under a fierce attack by the TNLA with the Burmese army successfully retaliating until now.
After the takeover of Khampat and the two army bases in the Chin hills, both next to the Indian borders, The Borderlens spoke to a few senior NUG leaders all of who believe that “these are good gains, but the road ahead is long.” The NUG leaders are of the opinion that the junta led SAC would respond back with air strikes. “We don’t know when, but that’s been the pattern,” the NUG leaders summed up their observations of the present developments.
With the junta forces surrendering, the resistance forces have gained control of army camps, police stations, and junta administrative buildings in most of the captured towns across Northern Shan, Sagaing, Chin State and Rakhine. According to reports area-clearing operations are still ongoing in some of the seized towns in Sagaing division.
In Khampat, the recovery which was made by the Resistance forces included weapons and bodies of two soldiers, there were also flags resembling those of the Manipur’s Valley Based Insurgent Groups (VBIGs). NUG sources said they were examining the recovered materials.
Khampat, which borders the Chin state and largely inhabited by ethnic Kachins is an administrative center of a sub-township with a population of approximately 38,000.
While the Burmese military has been clearly outnumbered on the ground and a vast swathe of territory has been taken by anti-regime forces, it still has its Air Force to fall back on. In fact the SAC is said to be contemplating fresh aerial assaults on some of its bases which were taken by anti-regime forces.
The recent offensives, which began in the north with the Three Brotherhood Alliance leading the way has achieved unprecedented success especially as it has managed to get other groups and the PDF to activate its strategy and attack the military junta on all fronts. While the anti-regime forces, especially the ethnic rebel groups have been organising themselves well, with intense trainings and jungle warfare preparations, the recent outbursts could not have achieved what it has in less than a month without tacit external support.
Even though China, which borders most of northern Shan State areas that have seen some of the worst clashes, has expressed concern over the ongoing conflict, which has it says has resulted in casualties among its own nationals, its tacit role in the present situation cannot be ruled out completely.