myanmar pkg
CNN gets rare look inside rebel base in Myanmar
03:45 - Source: CNN
Camp Victoria, Myanmar CNN  — 

Full-throated they belt out songs of victory, their boots adding the drumbeat as ranks of new recruits jog in formation through their jungle training camp.

There’s no doubting the shining eyes of these young people united by an ideal – freedom from the junta that’s smothered democracy in Myanmar.

Nor, perhaps, hiding from the dark tragedy that may await them.

They pour into Camp Victoria, the headquarters of the long-standing ethnic army of the Chin National Front (CNF) in western Myanmar, close to India’s border. They defy attempts by the camp’s leadership to suspend training because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Many come from within the surrounding mountainous territory. But many others make the dangerous journey across a nation that’s already riven with protests, army violence and oppression – in search of military skills.

On the cusp of adulthood, these volunteers say they demonstrated against the military coup that swept away their civilian government in February. And as the junta’s response has grown increasingly bloody, so they have taken up arms.

But any hope of singing songs of actual victory anytime soon are remote. Their leadership is warning of a long fight.

“Now it’s a kind of an urban guerrilla-type (conflict) but within months it will transform into a conventional civil war,” Suikhar, vice chairman of the CNF, tells CNN.

Chin National Army fighters are seen at their base.

This bleak truth raises the prospect, indeed the probability, that Myanmar will descend into a protracted conflict where no victors emerge, and the country collapses.

In a report on the emerging civil war in Myanmar published at the end of June, the International Crisis Group (ICG), a transnational think tank, accused the military of using a strategy that targeted civilians to undermine militia support.

But the experts’ prognosis for the civilian population was grim, too. “The coming period of national economic collapse, widespread poverty and deprivation will give them greater incentive to secure sources of revenue, either directly from locals or at their expense. These factors point to the likely emergence of new, sustained armed groups in these areas, following dynamics witnessed many times over the decades of insurgency in various parts of Myanmar,” the report said.

Suikhar insisted that his movement and the Chinland Defence Force, which are also being trained at Camp Victoria, were led by Myanmar’s National Unity Government.