She is 20 years old and calls herself Moana, after the Disney heroine, whose adolescent face she has. The young woman was beginning to study as a bookseller in Mandalay, the big city in central Burma, when the coup d’etat took place on 1er February 2021. She took part in the protest movement, then joined the armed insurrection in the areas of the Karen ethnic rebellion, in the east of the country, after the death of an uncle during a demonstration. She then followed six months of training, then became spotter (“observer”), that is to say the partner of a sniper, in the ranks of the Cobra battalion, within the new armed forces of the resistance.
We meet her while she is in the back, in safety, on the border, not far from Mae Sot (Thailand). But one of her comrades died in combat, and she is preparing to return to occupy her observation post, dug in the ground and located on the heights, at the edge of the zone controlled by the Cobras, in Burma, at a few tens of kilometers from the Thai border. In these foggy days of March, a commando of two hundred Burmese soldiers threatens to approach it. “Revenge”she said simply.
Such is life, between the withdrawal zones on the Thai side, where the threat of arrest constantly weighs on the illegal Burmese who live there, and the hills of the Karen country, where the seven “brigades” of the rebellion of this ethnic group , military units constituting a mosaic of enclaves spread over a territory the size of Belgium, have taken up arms again against the Burmese army, after several years of ceasefire. They have, at the same time, opened their arms to the hordes of rebels, in particular from the main ethnic group of Burma, the Bamar (70% of the population), fleeing the coup, from different regions of the country.
The air attacks of the Tatmadaw
A year and a half after the outbreak of the putsch, everything changed in this armed insurrection whose members had never really taken up arms against a military junta until then. Since then, students, but also professionals (engineers, doctors, etc.), have flocked to Karen country, meeting within the Popular Defense Forces (PDF). “We started with 30% weapons for a battalion, it went on average to 60%, and 80% in the case of Cobra”assures Thar Nat Shin Naung, the nom de guerre of one of the founders of this battalion which was one of the very first whose underground opposition, the government of national unity (NUG), financed the training in Karen zone, from December 2021. The battalion, which includes between three hundred and five hundred people, mostly young, has distinguished itself by daring operations to sabotage convoys of the Tatmadaw (Burmese armed forces) and its auxiliaries, or to capture military positions.
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