Myanmar rebels carry out unprecedented attack on military academy

Ethnic armed rebel groups have for decades fought against the Myanmar military, above, for land and resources in the country’s east. (AFP)
Updated 15 August 2019

Myanmar rebels carry out unprecedented attack on military academy

  • Ethnic armed rebel groups have for decades fought against the military for land and resources in Myanmar’s east
  • Assault targeted Pyin Oo Lwin, that is also home to barracks teeming with soldiers receiving training

YANGON: Myanmar’s military was Thursday fighting rebels who mounted an unprecedented strike at an army academy killing at least one, apparently in retaliation for massive drug seizures.
Ethnic armed rebel groups have for decades fought against the military — and often between themselves — for land and resources in Myanmar’s east.
Experts say the area is now the world’s largest meth-producing region, funding the complex web of conflicts.
Thursday’s brazen assault targeted Pyin Oo Lwin, a tourist town near Mandalay, that is also home to barracks teeming with soldiers receiving training.
Images from local media showed burned out cars riddled with bullet holes and damaged buildings showered in debris.
The Taaung National Liberation Army (TNLA) said the group launched attacks in retaliation for military offensives.
“Fighting took place at five places this morning,” TNLA spokesman Major Mai Aik Kyaw said, but clashes were ongoing.
One strike targeted the Defense Service Technology Academy (DSTA) where military engineers are trained, while another hit a police station near the region’s landmark Gokteik bridge, a rail route popular with sightseers.
Mai Aik Kyaw said the group mounted the attacks in coordination with the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and Arakan Army (AA).
The AA is currently fighting the military, or Tatmadaw, in the conflict-scarred western Rakhine state, but is in a tight alliance with the other rebel groups.
Military spokesman Brig. Gen. Zaw Min Tun confirmed all five attacks, saying one civilian had so far been killed in the crossfire and two members of the security forces had been injured.
“We assume they carried out the attacks because the Tatmadaw seized tons of drugs a few weeks ago,” he said.
In July, narcotics police were met with heavy artillery fire when they launched a major drugs crackdown in Kutkai township in neighboring Shan state.
Huge stockpiles of chemicals as well as millions of dollars’ worth of ice, the highly addictive crystalized form of meth, were seized in a single raid.
The “Golden Triangle” — a lawless wedge of land intersecting China, Myanmar, Thailand, and Laos — has long served as a base for opium and heroin production.
A cease-fire in Shan state declared by the military in December is officially due to finish in two weeks even though clashes with armed groups have continued.
China’s plans to invest in major infrastructure projects have added another dimension to the conflict with groups vying for control of increasingly valuable territory.


Indian PM steps up war of words with Beijing

Updated 15 August 2020

Indian PM steps up war of words with Beijing

  • The Indian leader’s bullish stance showed there was little hope of tensions easing along the frontier in coming months, foreign policy experts warned
  • India and China engaged in a tense military standoff along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Saturday the country had delivered a “fitting reply” over recent border clashes in the disputed Himalayan region of Ladakh.

The Indian leader’s bullish stance showed there was little hope of tensions easing along the frontier in coming months, foreign policy experts warned.

“The world has seen in Ladakh what our brave soldiers can do to save the sovereignty of the nation,” Modi said in his address to the nation, without naming China, as the country marked its 74th independence day.

Modi’s veiled comments come three months after clashes with Chinese troops in the Galwan Valley left 20 Indian soldiers dead — the first military confrontation between the two countries in more than four decades. 

India and China engaged in a tense military standoff along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh. Despite extensive talks, there seems to be little sign of an easing of tensions in the area.

Modi’s speech was also riddled with veiled threats to arch-rival Pakistan. “From LoC (Line of Control with Pakistan) to LAC, anyone who has (threatened) the sovereignty of the country, the army has responded in the same language.”

Tensions began building up in the disputed region in May when Indian troops blamed China’s military for hindering patrols along the Ladakh and Sikkim border.

Beijing blamed its southern neighbor for building road infrastructure in the Fingers Region around the Pangong Tso Lake and the Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh.

Amid the blame game, the two sides reinforced their troops, leading to a military buildup.

Referring to the incident as part of China’s expansionist policy, Modi warned that India would confront terrorism or expansionism with “full might.”

However, opposition Congress Party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala questioned why “our rulers are scared of mentioning China’s name.”

“Each and every Congress worker and all Indians are proud of our armed forces and have full faith in them,” he told reporters after Modi’s address. 

“We salute the armed forces for giving China an apt reply every time there has been an attack. But what about those who are sitting in power. Why are they scared of mentioning China’s name?”

Surjewala said the government must explain how it plans to safeguard the country's territorial integrity.

“Today, when China has occupied our territory, we must ask the government how it proposes to push the Chinese forces back and protect our territorial integrity. That is the true sense of democracy,” he said.

Foreign policy experts said that Modi's address was directed at domestic audiences. 

“The statement is meant for domestic consumption. It doesn’t change the fact that the disengagement and de-escalation process at the LAC is at a standstill,” Manoj  Kewalramani, of the Bangalore-based Takshashila Institution think tank, told Arab News.

There was “no evidence” of Chinese troops retreating from their positions, he said.

Lt. Gen. Deependra Singh Hooda, former chief of the Indian army’s northern command, said both sides were in a difficult position and their standoff “will have geopolitical implications for South Asia.”

“The standoff will affect India-China relations, particularly China and whether they want relations with India that are marked by tension.

“There is also talk of India looking at other geopolitical options such as QUAD (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, an informal strategic forum between the US, Japan, Australia and India),” Hooda told Arab News.

Millions tune in for Modi’s customary independence day speech, which usually dwells on the government’s domestic triumphs and foreign policy plans.

However, this year he also attempted to strengthen the bond among South Asian nations, saying that “if greater peace prevails in this region, it will help all humanity and the world.”

Modi added: “Leaders of the region have a great responsibility in the development of its huge population.

“In the last few years, India has strengthened its relationship with the extended neighborhood, particularly with the West Asian countries. Our economic relationship, particularly the partnership in the energy sector, is important.”