Myanmar soldiers flee to India after clash with rebels

At least 43 Myanmar soldiers have surrendered to police in the Indian state of Mizoram a day after heavy clashes with anti-junta rebel fighters, an Indian police official said on Tuesday, Reuters reports.

Anti-junta fighters in Myanmar’s Chin state were aiming to gain control of part of a porous border with India, after tasting early success with the takeover of two military outposts on the remote mountainous frontier.

Dozens of rebels battled the Myanmar military from dawn to dusk on Monday to overrun two camps abutting India’s Mizoram state, as part of a widening offensive against the junta-led administration, Chin National Front (CNF) Vice Chairman Sui Khar said.

Spokespersons for Myanmar’s junta and India’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Myanmar’s military leadership is facing its biggest test since taking power in a 2021 coup after three ethnic minority forces launched a coordinated offensive in late October, capturing some towns and military posts.

The offensive, named by rebels as “Operation 1027” after the date it began, initially made inroads in junta-controlled areas on the border with China in Shan State, where military authorities have lost control of several towns and over 100 military outposts.

“We are continuing our attacks in northern Shan State,” said Kyaw Naing, a spokesperson for the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, which is part of the operation.

Fighting also erupted on two new fronts this week, in the western states of Rakhine and Chin, which sent thousands of people fleeing to Mizoram.

Some 80 rebels mounted attacks on Rihkhawdar and Khawmawi military camps in Chin at around 4 a.m. on Monday, eventually taking control of both outputs after several hours of fighting, Sui Khar said.

Following the battle, 43 Myanmar soldiers surrendered to Indian police and are currently sheltering in Mizoram, local police official Lalmalsawma Hnamte said.

“Whether they will be pushed back or not, we are waiting for further instructions from the central government,” he told Reuters.

India’s federal home ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Sui Khar and the Chin Human Rights Organization said they believed some of these soldiers may have been involved in atrocities against civilians.

Chin rebels will now look to consolidate their control along the India-Myanmar border, where the Myanmar military has two more camps, Sui Khar said.

“We’ll move forward,” he told Reuters, “Our tactic is from the village to the town to the capital.” Chin State, which had been largely peaceful for years, saw fierce fighting after the 2021 coup by junta leaders with thousands of residents taking up arms, many of them assisted and trained by the CNF.

The Chin rebellion was backed by locals in Mizoram, in part due to close ethnic ties, and tens of thousands of people from Myanmar sought shelter in the small Indian state, including ousted state and federal lawmakers.

TANKS ON THE STREETS

A resident in Rakhine’s capital Sittwe and social media posts said that tanks had been seen on the streets of the city following the eruption of fighting in the western state.

The junta has imposed a curfew in Sittwe and residents have been ordered not to leave their homes after 9 p.m. and businesses must close by 8.30pm or face legal action, according to a government document and media reports.

“We saw tanks going around the town. Many shops are closed today,” a resident told Reuters, declining to be named for security reasons.

“The schools are open but families did not send their kids to school today.”

Fighting was occurring across Rakhine state, according to two residents and a spokesperson for the Arakan Army (AA), a group fighting for greater autonomy that has seized military posts in Rathedaung and Minbya towns.

A Rathedaung resident told Reuters on Tuesday the area came under artillery fire overnight and that military soldiers had entered the town.

“Artillery fell on a street in Rathedaung town last night. No immediate report of injured or casualties yet,” said the resident, who asked not to be identified.

“People have started fleeing the town. Soldiers are in the town now.”

The country’s military-appointed president last week said Myanmar was at risk of breaking apart because of an ineffective response to the rebellion – the most significant fight back since the 2021 coup deposed the democratically elected government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

The generals say they are fighting “terrorists”.

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