Fighting the Myanmar army’s war against pro-democracy resistance groups may have emboldened the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), a Manipur-based extremist group, to ambush an Assam Rifles convoy killing seven , including a colonel, his wife and minor son, on November 13.
According to an intelligence report accessed by The Hindu , there are about 300 members of the PLA and other VBIGs — short for (Imphal) Valley-based insurgent groups — across the India-Myanmar border. These groups have lost at least 40 members in the internal war between the military junta and the People’s Democratic Front (PDF).
“The Myanmar army had been grudgingly supportive whenever India had asked for any help and they have time and again destroyed a few terrorist bases and camps in their territory, however mostly for optics rather than effect,” the report said. The situation took a new dimension after the military coup on February 1.
The PDF, comprising mostly civilians armed with rudimentary weapons, caused a heavy toll on the capabilities of the Myanmar army, which began demanding the services of the VBIGs. The army used to extract cash from the Manipur extremist groups for allowing them to stay in the country, the report said.
The duties the VBIGs have been doing for the Myanmar army include holding their sentry posts, carrying out duties at vehicle checkpoints and routine patrolling besides combat. It is believed that rubbing shoulders with the Myanmar army is believed to have given the confidence to the PLA to strike in Manipur after lying low for five to six years.
“After a series of joint operations between the Indian and Myanmar armies, the VBIGs were forced to shift their camps east of Manipur to the north in areas opposite South Arunachal Pradesh, where they live as tenants of NSCN (KYA),” the report said.
NSCN (KYA) is the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang-Yung Aung).
Some shifted south of Manipur to Chin state in Myanmar, where the intensity of the civil war in Myanmar has been such that some 15,000 people have taken refuge in Mizoram.
The VBIGs who shifted to Chin state are believed to have carried out the November 13 ambush near the Myanmar border in Churachandpur district, Manipur. The area is in southern Manipur, which had been less of a hunting ground for the PLA than the eastern border districts of Chandel (partly southern), Tengnoupal and Kamjong.