On May 24, in Kachin State, Myanmar, 13-year-old Awng Di walked to his aunt’s house at about noon to feed her chickens. Thirty minutes later, heavy artillery penetrated the chicken coop; Awng Di died before reaching the nearby clinic.
“Our family has never been involved in politics… we just want to survive,” Awng Di’s mother told Al Jazeera. “Now, I want to curse [the military soldiers] Every time I see them. “
Since April, the town of Momauk where Awng Di is located has been the site of clashes between the armed forces of the Myanmar Army and the Kachin Independence Army (an armed faction of an ethnic armed group). According to United Nations estimates, the escalation of violence in Momauk and other areas of Kachin State has resulted in the displacement of more than 11,000 people.
The conflict in Momauk marked a wider escalation of fighting across the country since the military coup on February 1, as decades-long conflicts between the Myanmar army and ethnic armed groups in the border areas of Myanmar restarted or accelerated, and Civil Defense Forces Appear In towns where there has not been a fight before.
In response to the increase in armed resistance, the Burmese army launched indiscriminate air and ground attacks on civilian areas. 230,000 people have been displaced since the coup. Security forces also looted and burned houses, blocked aid routes and the transportation of relief supplies, restricted water supply, cut off telecommunications networks, shelled shelters, and killed and arrested volunteers seeking humanitarian assistance.
According to Naw Htoo Htoo, project director of Karen Human Rights Organization, the pattern of violence by the Burmese army since the coup marked the continuation of the four reduction strategy, which the military began to use in Karen State in the 1960s and has been targeting other ethnic minorities since then Civilians in the area.
“[The Tatmadaw] Don’t use the word ‘Four knives‘No longer, but the strategy is definitely the same as the four cuts they have used against ethnic minorities in more than 70 years,” said Naw Htoo Htoo.
By restricting access to food, funds, intelligence, and recruits, the strategy aims to starve the support bases of armed resistance and make civilians oppose resistance groups.
In addition to Kayin State, the armed forces have also used this strategy in areas such as Kachin State and Rakhine State.Customs clearance‘Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya, mainly Muslims, were sent across the border to Bangladesh.
Kim Jolliffe, an independent researcher focusing on security and conflict in Myanmar, said that the four-time reduction strategy “not only treats civilians as’collateral damage’, but as a core resource on the battlefield.
“They are directly targeted by extreme violence, their livelihoods are deliberately destroyed, so armed groups cannot find refuge and civilian support,” he told Al Jazeera.
Since the coup d’etat, the Burmese army seems to have expanded the use of four cuts across the country, including in areas where the Burmese majority. In late March, after security forces ransacked houses in Gangaw township in the central Magway region, locals began to fight back with shotguns. According to the local media organization “Myanmar Now”, the armed forces responded with heavy explosives and machine guns, causing 4 deaths and more than 10,000 people fled to the forest.
On the evening of June 15th, indiscriminate killings occurred in Baoke Township in Magway District. More than 200 houses in Jinma Village were burned down. Kill an elderly couple trapped at homeTwo Jinma residents, who did not want to be named, spoke to Al Jazeera that they were not aware of any conflict that led to the fire, but according to Myanmar’s current account, the incident occurred on a small scale between local resistance fighters and plainclothes police and soldiers. A few days after the conflict.
One of the villagers told Al Jazeera that at around 11pm on June 15th, he saw at least nine people in plain clothes entering the village, setting fire to the house, and shooting at cows, pigs and buffalo in the village.
The Burmese army blamed the incident on 40 “terrorists” and stated that the media that accused it of burning the village tried to discredit it.
The military spokesperson did not answer multiple phone calls from Al Jazeera, requesting comment on the violence or the use of the “four-cutting” strategy.
Now, residents of Jinma are scattered in nearby villages or living in temporary shelters in the jungle, where their food and supplies are insufficient, according to Al Jazeera interviewed by Al Jazeera, the pseudonym Dan Dun Aung of one of the two villagers of Jinma. Aid is challenging because there may be police or soldiers along the way,” he said. “We are always vigilant and ready to run at any time.”
‘All lives are threatened’
Kayah State and neighboring southern Shan State remained at peace before the coup. Since May 23, a group calling themselves Karenni People’s Defense Forces has occupied a police station in Mobai Town, Shan State. Since then, the armed forces have also become The target of a fierce attack. The Pekon township of the state and the fighting quickly spread throughout the area. When civil defense fighters used homemade weapons to conduct targeted ambushes, the Burmese army launched what the United Nations called “indiscriminate attacks”, firing artillery and guns into civilian areas, displacing 100,000 people, most of whom are now living. In the nearby forest.
Churches where some people have sought asylum have been repeatedly attacked, including Sacred Heart Church On May 24, the town of Loikaw in Kayah State was shelled, killing 4 people.
Transporting aid in Kayah and Shan State is difficult and dangerous. The Burmese army prevented the flow of goods into conflict-affected towns, killed and arrested aid volunteers, and killed two displaced people who tried to get rice from their homes.
Joseph Reh, a volunteer relief worker in Pekon town, refused to reveal his real name for security reasons. He told Al Jazeera that his group initially used white flags when providing assistance, hoping to protect them, but the security forces offered to protect them. They shot anyway.
His group stored food and relief supplies in a school, but was initially unable to distribute these items due to the risk of being attacked. On the afternoon of June 8, when volunteers tried to transport bags of rice to the displaced people hiding in the mountains, he said that the security forces opened fire on the group of people’s vans, forcing them to turn around.
“So they found a place where we stored food and supplies,” Joseph Reh said. That night, “They came to school, took all our supplies to a field, and then burned them.” He said that a total of more than 80 bags of rice, as well as other dry food, medical supplies, ambulances and automobile stocks were destroyed.
“They destroyed things they shouldn’t have, and these things have nothing to do with the People’s Defence Forces they are fighting,” Joseph Reh said. “The food they burned is purely for the displaced… The ambulance they burned has nothing to do with the battle. It says RESCUE and there is a red cross sign on it.”
According to Joseph Reh, in the next two days, security forces opened fire on the mountains, further restricting the delivery of aid.
In addition to food and supply shortages, the displaced also face inadequate housing and medical services. In the town of Minda in Chin State, where the Civil Defense Forces picked up shotguns and homemade weapons in mid-May, the armed forces launched a heavy weapon attack, causing more than 20,000 people to be displaced. According to Radio Free Asia, at least six displaced persons have since died due to lack of medical care.
“Everything is under military control, and everyone’s lives are threatened,” said Salai Shane, who is the head of Mindat’s voluntary response team. He described “extremely difficult” when trying to reach the displaced.
On June 13, a car of his group was seized on the way from Pakokku to Mindat in the Magway region while delivering food and raincoats; Salai Shane has since lost contact with the driver. The security forces arrested another member of the organization on June 19 and confiscated his motorcycle and the relief supplies he had delivered to the displaced. According to Salai Shane, within a week of detention, he was beaten and interrogated.
Since the aid volunteer was shot to death in Kayah State, Salai Shane said he was particularly afraid of providing aid on foot. “Sometimes there is no route for motorcycles, and we have to travel with our belongings many times,” he said. “If we are in the forest or jungle, we may be killed and our bodies will disappear.”
The military fuels anger
According to independent researcher Kim Jolliffe, Tatmadaw is willing to do “unfathomable things” to the public in order to maintain control. He said: “It only knows one way to deal with opposition, and that is to use extreme force to bring down every dissident in society.”
However, while the four-time reduction strategy may try to get the public to oppose armed resistance or weaken resolve, Naw Htoo Htoo of Karen Human Rights Group said that this approach may backfire.
“In the short term, due to food and water shortages and limited access to resources, it may have some impact on armed resistance, but in the long term, [the Tatmadaw] They will not be able to govern anywhere,” she said. “The more they oppress the people, the stronger the civilians, because when they deliberately attack everyone, people will hate them more. “
Victims of armed forces violence since the coup have told Al Jazeera that these experiences have consolidated their hatred of the security forces and made them more determined to ensure their downfall.
“We can never look at the military positively,” Dan Tun Aung of Jinma Village told Al Jazeera. “We just want to continue to live peacefully as farmers… We must end this military regime or we will suffer for the rest of our lives.”
At Mindat, Salai Shane came to a similar conclusion. He said: “If the Civil Defence Force can defeat the army and drive them out of the area, we will be able to resume commercial and agricultural activities freely and live a better life.” “We cannot separate the two: the armed resistance is organized by It is composed of civilians because we all hate the military government and intend to abolish it. Restricting aid to civilians will only delay the armed resistance movement, not stop it.”