Myanmar’s military junta has ordered an extensive combing operation in the country’s second biggest city Mandalay after a shootout on Tuesday.
Fighting erupted between an armed urban insurgent group People’s Defense Force, a Mandalay based resistance force made up of Bamar (ethnic Burmese) hardliners , and the Burmese military Tatmadaw raided a rebel hideout on the 54th street in Mandalay’s Chanmyathazi township on Tuesday morning.
The Tatmadaw-backed Myawaddy TV claimed eight PDF fighters were killed and as many arrested during the shootout. But the PDF spokesman Bo Tun Tauk Naing told IANS only two activists were killed and six arrested.
“They sniffed us out in one of our hideout in a boarding school located on the 54th Street in the Hton Tone area. We shot at them as they encircled the school. Many of our fighters escaped but two were killed and six arrested,” Bo Tun told IANS over Facebook messenger.
He said that the PDF was ‘ not worried over some setbacks like this’ and would target Tatmadaw families and their Chinese backers. “We lost some weapons but we have a steady supply now,” said Bo Tun, pointing to possible arming of Burmese resistance fighters by ethnic rebel armies of the Karen and Kachin tribe which have fought the Tatmadaw for decades.
That worries the military junta because the resistance activists have repeatedly threatened to blow up the 800kms oil-gas pipeline connecting Myanmar’s Rakhine province deep sea port Kyaukphyu with China’s Yunnan province.
In May, resistance activists slashed three police guards in an off-take station of the pipeline at Mandalay, testifying to their targetting of Chinese business interests because the pro-democracy protestors see Beijing as the main backer of the Myanmar military junta.
More than 30 Chinese factories have so far been burnt down so far.
“The shootout in Mandalay points to the existence of the resistance in the city and the Tatmadaw is worried that it could hit the Myanmar-China pipeline,” said a foreign diplomat posted in Mandalay.
He said Mandalay was ringed by huge number of Tatmadaw soldiers and armed policemen after the Tuesday shootout. Civilians were asked to stay home and not move as the troops searched for the resistance fighters who escaped.
He said reports of armed resistance to the military junta multiplying in many cities and towns were streaming in over the past fifteen days.
It began in late May with the heroic resistance by the local militia at Mindat town in the Chin Hills, which IANS reported in details. Now it seems to be spreading, specially in areas close to borders.