In a moving car, an automatic gun suddenly slides right in front of the lens of the filming cell phone. When the car runs under a flyover, a police station comes into the picture. The moment the car that passes, the gun is shot until the car disappears around a bend with squeaky tires.
This attack of the resistance in Myanmars largest city of Yangon would have killed two agents. On a daily basis, the military regime loses people due to attacks by opposition rebels. “Since the military coup in February, there are dozens of deaths a day on the side of the military,” says freelance journalist and Myanmar expert Ole Chavannes, after looking at the image of the drive-by. “The opposition is stronger than ever at the moment.”
See the conscious attack for yourself:
In order to get under control, the military regime has started an offensive. This is a difficult job, because the regime has been trying for decades to get militias of ethnic groups underneath, such as the Chin in the west, the Kachin north, the Shan to the east and the Mon in southern Myanmar.
Since the coup in February, participants in the street protests from earlier this year have also joined those groups to train and fight along. In conversations with deCCeit via encrypted chat apps, rebels say there are thousands of them. “In our area, about 5,000 young people have been added since February alone,” says a rebel who wants to remain anonymous.
Myanmar has one of the longest-running civil wars in the world. The various ethnic groups have always fought against each other or against the military in power. But since the coup in February, according to Chavannes, something special seems to be going on. “Never before have the different groups worked together so much, with a joint opponent: General Min Aung Hlaings regime.”
The joint opposition is partly controlled and financed by the Government of National Unity (NUG). That is a group of elected parliamentarians who were dropped off during the coup, fled and now reign in exile. In early September, the NUG called for a “defensive peoples war” against the regime. “They collect the money to pay the rebels with foreign donations, among other things,” says Chavannes. “They can also offer a lot of money to get military personnel to desert. These are called “watermelons”; because of the green outside of the uniform, but the rebel red inside.”
Exactly how the battle is going is not clear. In large parts of the country, the regime has shut down the Internet and telephone connections.
The little image and information that reaches abroad through citizen journalists often ends up with the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), an independent media company Chavannes works for. But despite the large network, some information is also difficult for the DVB to get confirmed. “We didnt know for a long time if we could publish the driveby at the police station. It wasnt until we knew from other sources that agents had been killed that we were able to put it on our Facebook page.”
Chavannes confirms that young people are the catalyst of the current fight against the junta. “Its the generation that has tasted relative freedom over the past ten years. And ten years in a young persons life is a lot! They really dont take that freedom away from them.” It has also ensured that the junta still does not control the country.
Because of the coup, Myanmar is once again a pariah in the international community. Recently, the military regime was even banned from a conference of Southeast Asian countries (ASEAN), usually a notoriously apolitical organization. “That was a slap in the face for the junta,” says Chavannes.
With a successful offensive, the army hopes to show itself as an undisputed leader of Myanmar. It is a large-scale military action that could only start after the start of the dry season. “On the dusty roads, its easier to send tanks and other equipment to the front than in the mud of the rainy season.”
Making a fist
Images received by the DVB show that villages have been destroyed by missile attacks and that the army is supervising helicopters and jets over rebel area.
The rebels say on the Signal chat app that the military has shut down roads so that it becomes difficult to get food and equipment into rebel area. “If we want to get medicine and food, it can only be done by crossing the border with neighbouring countries. Walking through the jungle on small paths. Not by truck or car,” reports an anonymous source. Thousands of civilians arrive at the border with India who flee hunger and new battles.
So the question is how long the rebels can do the Armys offensive.resist. “Myanmar has the largest standing army in Southeast Asia,” says Chavannes. “So its definitely a strong opponent for them. But from conversations I have with the people there, I notice real hope that they can make a fist for the first time.”
Making a fist is not without danger. Our anonymous source on Signal is proof of that. According to civil ian journalists in Myanmar, he was arrested. It is unclear what his fate is right now.