Ethnic armed groups fighting to restore civilian rule in Myanmar have claimed new territory in the country’s northwest near the border with India, amid an escalating offensive against the military regime. Fighters in Chin state reportedly took control of two military outposts on the border of India’s Mizoram state after hours-long battles on Monday, according to local media outlets.
The advance follows successes in neighbouring Rakhine state and northern Shan state in a coordinated offensive launched two weeks ago by anti-coup forces. Myanmar was plunged into crisis when Senior General Min Aung Hlaing seized power in a coup in 2021, leading to mass protests that evolved into armed resistance when the military used force to crack down on its civilian opponents.
About 80 fighters mounted attacks on Rihkhawdar and Khawmawi military camps in Chin state in the early hours of Monday, eventually taking control of both outposts after several hours of fighting, Chin National Front (CNF) Vice Chairman Sui Khar told the Reuters news agency. The CNF will now look to consolidate its control along the India-Myanmar border, where the Myanmar military has two more camps, he said.
“We’ll move forward,” Sui Khar said. “Our tactic is from the village to the town to the capital.”
The generals, who have acknowledged the scale of the challenge posed to their regime, have expanded martial law to more parts of the country amid the intensified conflict. Social media posts said a nighttime curfew had been imposed in Sittwe, Rakhine’s capital, with some reports of tanks on the streets.
“We saw tanks going around the town. Many shops are closed today,” a resident told Reuters, declining to be named for security reasons.
Fighting was taking place across Rakhine, 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 the military 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.”
Despite its brutal history of communal violence and the 2017 military crackdown on the mostly Muslim Rohingya, Rakhine emerged as one of the more peaceful parts of the country after the coup, thanks to an informal ceasefire between the AA and the military agreed just a few months before. The arrangement began to break down by November 2021, as the AA entrenched its political control over the state.
The AA was established in 2009 to push for self-determination within Myanmar and mostly represents ethnic Rakhine Buddhists, who make up the majority of the state’s population. Many of the country’s other ethnic armed groups have been fighting the military for decades.