Myanmar ethnic minority fighters walking the revolutionary path

Nestled in the hills of northern Shan State, Namhsan is the latest town to fall to Ta’ang National Liberation Army fighters since they launched a surprise offensive against Myanmar’s junta in October

Published - December 21, 2023 08:26 am IST - Namhsan

This photo taken on December 12, 2023 shows members of ethnic minority armed group Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) sitting at a checkpoint amid clashes with Myanmar’s military in Namhsan Township in Myanmar’s northern Shan State.

This photo taken on December 12, 2023 shows members of ethnic minority armed group Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) sitting at a checkpoint amid clashes with Myanmar’s military in Namhsan Township in Myanmar’s northern Shan State. | Photo Credit: AFP

Pickup trucks carrying ethnic minority fighters rolled into a town in Myanmar’s northeastern Shan State recently cleared of junta troops — another victory redrawing the frontlines of the country’s civil war.

The convoy passed the golden spire of a Buddhist pagoda in Namhsan but most eyes were scanning the skies for the attack jets the junta is using to support its embattled ground troops.

The men jumped down from the vehicles and fanned out on foot past locked wooden houses and down deserted streets silenced by days of fighting.

A burst of gunfire revealed a pocket of junta troops on the edge of the town and sent the fighters scuttling for cover behind walls.

Nestled in the hills of northern Shan State, Namhsan is the latest town to fall to Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) fighters since they launched a surprise offensive against Myanmar’s junta in October.

The TNLA announced it had captured Namhsan on Saturday. Footage shows the fighters in the last stages of their operation to secure the town last week.

On the road to Namhsan hours before the TNLA moved in, its spokesman Tar Aik Kyaw said his fighters were “walking the revolutionary path.”

“The main objective is to take down the military dictatorship, which is what Myanmar people always want.” Nearby, a squad of fighters in camouflage fatigues and peaked caps with badges showing the TNLA emblem set against a blue sky, unloaded crates of mortars for a final check before heading into battle.

The stiffest challenge

For almost three years, civilian “People’s Defence Forces” have been battling around the country to oust the junta which seized power in a 2021 coup. But the offensive launched by the TNLA and its allies — the Arakan Army and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army — in October has galvanised the anti-junta movement and presented the generals with their stiffest military challenge in decades, with groups attacking on multiple fronts. Evidence of fierce fighting was everywhere in Namhsan.

One of the pagoda’s spires had been knocked down, an unexploded rocket lay on the ground and a building was riddled with bullet holes.

Inside, a dark pool of blood stained the floor next to blankets and food wrappers, while in the next room more blood was smeared on the walls.

Residents who have not already fled live in fear.

“We don’t have anywhere to go. There are caves to hide in but they are a long way from our house,” said Ohmarwho asked to use a pseudonym for security reasons.

More than 6,00,000 people are estimated to have been displaced and 378 civilians killed since the alliance launched its offensive on October 27, according to the United Nations.

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