It has been almost two years since the Myanmar Military seized the state power by coup; despite their brutal oppression and cohesion over the whole population with various methods, people are still resisting their rule in various ways they can, from CDM to arm struggle. Especially in the country's central region, the rural area, where the military’s Russian- made jets and helicopters are bombing, and their land forces are razing the villages into the ground. Like the Phoenix may ever return from cinder, the will of people who do not wish to be governed by the Military has forced the rural peasant militia to keep the fight on and on. But the Myanmar Spring didn’t start as an armed struggle in the first place in the early stage of the anti-coup. It started as the peaceful protest of factory workers and students, the Civil Disobedience Movement of government workers, and some Urban Youth movements like Block Boc style “Owning the Hood,” which blocked the district and building barricades and autonomy, “Non-Cooperation Movement” like from taxation, an electric bill to boycott the Military own enterprise and products.
These spontaneous actions do not drive by one command body or systemic resistance; to be precise, it is not led by the electoral winning party NLD (National League for Democracy), CRPH (Committee Representative of Parliament) or its supporter, or lead by social justice warrior of particular activist, when the time of need, the society come in handy, various class with different ideology background come together and corporate each other for the common goal in beauty and harmony of diversity.
We have seen what Statists might have called Utopian in the first six months of the coup. Technically, both couped militaries failed to establish their rule, and the electoral winner didn’t have the chance to rule. Due to the CDM movement, the government‘s healthcare and education services have stopped, and brave volunteers have come forward to fill the blank the society needs while they warranted; while police were busy confronting the demonstration, vigilant volunteers formed a security team and pratol day and night in their ward and district, while public transportation system is shut down, there are volunteer taxi drivers and car owner who lift around the protest camp and home for free of charge, and free food and drink are very common in everywhere near the protest site and camp. Where there is no crime and solidarity is strong in society, and mutual aid is a natural response to society's needs, from street vendors to small shopkeepers, their contribution to society from individual to mass and to its need. But such a realistic utopia of no government is destroyed by the overuse of force by the Military and police. The brutal crackdown, mass killing, and use of lethal weapons over unarmed protest have forced people to flee the city and fight back, and the revolution has dramatically changed into arm struggle.
Today I had a chance to interview my old comrade who is currently active and involved in a local militia group or LPD (Local People Defense). From this interview, we can reflect, rewind and review the libertarian movement from one aspect through her personal view and own experience of the revolution.
Obi-Y: How did you get involved in the armed resistance revolution?
Leisa: I started to be involved in the Urban Resistance movement with some UG groups. When it failed, and we were forced to flee from the cities, some of my comrades went to EAO (Ethnic Armed Organizations) control areas to get basic combatant training. I was left alone in the city to continue supporting those doing CDM (Civil Disobedience Movement). There are 20 CDM government workers to whom I have been doing mutual aid support.
Every month, I provided each CDM officer with one sack of rice and 50,000 Kyats (25 USD). All the way, I had to sell all my properties, and only when I could not afford to do so I started asking for donations from other people online. Since the revolution started, I have sold all my belongings, including my home and car, let alone my other personal items. And then, my comrades returned from training in the jungle. At first, we could not decide which resistance force to join, and finally, we decided to join an LPDF (Local People Defense) in the region, which SBDF, and we enlisted in their base- 2 camps. At that time, we did not have public trust and people's support either. We had to eat and survive only with what we could find in the jungle, such as bamboo shoots and fish paste. Even so, we try to produce highly explosive material, hand-made rifles, and bombs with limited skills and knowledge, which we learned from short course training. I have to take the role of transport and logistics to support only. Whether it is rainy or sunny and day or night.
I smuggled the materials and weapons that were made in hidden places in the city by motorbike to our resistance camp. Not to mention, there were many incidents where I nearly got arrested. To be honest, I am scared to die, and by fighting and striving not to die, I became a strong woman.
People like us who don’t have faith in eternal life are more afraid of death because once we die, it's over. As much as our resistance force needs tremendous support, it is highly effective and performs many operations with great resolution. And, of course, we can’t do it by ourselves without solidarity, support, and mutual aid from the people. We also have a treasurer whose alias name is Mr. Yar Zar. Through his connections abroad, we received much support from overseas migrant workers. On the other hand, we suffered a lot of casualties and hardship in the struggle. We started with twenty comrades who EAO trained, but now we only have three while half are KIA (Kill in Action), and the rest are wounded and do not fit for a fight anymore. Despite our losses, victory is in our grasp everywhere we roll; we managed to operate and accomplish tons of missions within two years. We have data and statistics that we will reveal to the public after the revolution.
Obi-Y: Could you elaborate on how your resistance group of the SBDF branch transformed into the current Buffalo Soldier?
Leisa: In our SBDF branch two camps, we only had thirty members, and we didn’t have enough food and materials for producing arms. There is no electricity either. We had to run the generator to manufacture the arms, costing 50,000 Kyats (24 USD) per day for fuel. So, we discussed our survival and decided to boost our public relations role and reveal some missions to the public to attract funding. Regarding the arms and ammunition, we might get it from the NUG (National Unity Government) if we enter their COC (Chain of Command). After making that decision, we asked permission from Commander Than Ma Ni of SBDF and formed a new local defense group called (Yan Bilu) “Dynamite,” and permission was granted.
The fame of the new militia group has spread among the region, and we gained support from the locals, and we could even buy an assault rifle. New recruits are arriving day by day to join us, not only from the region but also from the neighbours. In this way, our group started to complete the features of a battalion by men's power. With the help of a former NLD (National League for Democracy) party member and youth coordinator from the village, we applied to become an official battalion recognized by NUG’s MOD (Ministry of Defense). And he was appointed as the commander of our battalion. As we know, the organizational structure of the battalion is a very top-down hierarchy. Personally, I didn’t like it, but I was just in the minority, so I had to follow their decision according to majoritarian democracy. And then later things came up to split -up again, me and the other half comrades separated from the battalion and became buffalo soldiers.
We agreed to leave the belongings, arms, and ammunition we got from donation funding while we were in the Dynamite group for the battalion, and here we go again, starting from scratch. But now, there is no top-down authority structure in Buffalo Soldiers. Everyone is assigned their own role and responsibility. I am officially in charge of accounting and delegation to speak with the Public and other groups.
Obi-Y: As a woman who is practically fighting in the arm revolution, have you encountered patriarchal stigma and gender discrimination?
Leisa: Definitely, I have faced many obstacles, from gender discrimination to religious influence. Mostly, monks saved us. They provided shelter and food from the monasteries. In one case, we, the women, were not allowed to go to the second floor of the monastery, which is the only place to get internet access. When the monks came, we had to pay respect and put our palms together in front of our chests. We were mocked for having tattoos, wearing trousers, and putting makeup on by some village folks. However, for now, everything is settled, and we managed to build trust and mutual respect with the head monk to a point where we could equally have an argument. As I show my respect for their religion, they have to show their respect for my freedom and my values. In general speaking, there are some powermonger monks in this Buddhist Community; they believe they are morally superior to their devotees. Besides, they are arrogant and enjoy power over their believers. In this way, they associate with politicians, and religion and politics have always meddled with each other ever since.
In the past, the rural villagers dared not even step into the shadows of the monks who called themselves Sangha, Buddha’s sons, and put on the religious robe as power uniform just to gain wealth and power. But now, they are swearing at those monks who stand for injustice. They ignore them for donations. They start to doubt and question Kan's consequences (Karama). I am quite satisfied to see those actions. In addition, I believe only monks who are progressive can critically examine the religious beliefs and values that have been passed down and influenced them from generation to generation, and only they can demolish the religious wall they had built. That’s why I think we have made some improvement as we progress, people now have disbelief in the power that religion has built, and the religious stigmas are now disappearing.
Obi-Y: Do you also think there is some improvement in women’s rights and feminism?
Leisa: As I am not a female Nazi, I don’t have many one-sided opinions on that matter. I want to share one incident I had in my battalion days as an example. A girl took a video of a guy when he unknowingly exposed his butt while playing the marbles game, and she spread the video to the whole group just for fun. The guy got embarrassed, and he almost started the fight. I stood up for that guy and blamed those girls at that time. “Did you girls think that was a joke? Everyone has face and dignity, either girls or boys; you have to respect that; now that the victim is the boy, you think you are not to be blamed. But, if he were you, you would start pulling it out as sexual harassment and play the victim card, right? That is because you see the boy not as a human but as the man should be and accept society’s values of gender.
Young people are getting fooled by Facebook posts about being a smart woman! (Wokeness). If you cannot see people as they are and distinguish them as men and women as a gender, that is not equality. We must treat people how we like to be treated, regardless of gender. When one female cannot change herself and have mutual respect. Seeing us, and then is neither solidarity nor equality and demands lady-first for everything, she is not qualified to say gender equality. In general, although rural people have started to accept that women can have tattoos and wear shorts, and men and women can equally work, sex and sexuality are still taboo.
Obi-Y: As an anarchist, to what extent do you expect to achieve liberty and equality from this spring revolution as of now?
Leisa: In my own opinions and belief, I wish to achieve till we reach a point where no one can rule anyone, where the government is no longer needed. In reality, however, we are fighting a representative democratic system from a military dictatorship. I already knew that but deliberately this is just the two governments or ruling class war, but the situation that I am in has forced me to fight, and I have no privilege option to choose not to fight but to fight and survive, so I decided to fight in this revolution because of one sincere hope that together with the revolution, we will be able to extinguish the long forgotten, oppressed rights, class struggle, religious extremism, gender discrimination to some degree day by day with the new hope.
Obi-Y: Finally, do you have anything to add?
Leisa: To be honest, those who are actively fighting in the revolution are mostly from lower-class mass and rural peasant families. There is no shallow soul in sight. The progressive or liberal educated people of the middle (petty bourgeoisie) are less involved; we are in a society where some privileged claim rights by extending and knowing what freedom is only by price. I, myself, am fighting this for my own belief or self-interest that I might be able to change something a little; I do not expect much. Even my small contribution will spontaneously change in one day. And I will continue to fight day by day, each by each, with new and new hope.
According to the statement of AAPP (The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners), 2200 protesters and bystanders have died since the coup until now. The death toll in conflict areas and the challenges of documenting human rights abuses in an increasingly closed country make exact tallies of people killed difficult. In many villages and towns, the junta's attacks drove out tens of thousands of people. UNOCHA (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) predicted that as of early September 2022, 974,000 people had been internally displaced since the coup. Between the coup and June 2022, over 40,000 people fled to neighboring countries, and the Junta has called for re-election to lighten the pressure of international legitimacy for their rule, but the people's resistance is built on hope.
By Obi-Y Kanochi
May the Force Be With You !
English Translation by Michi.
Source: Asia Pacific Sub-Secretariat of the IWA