Extremist groups of Manipur operating from their hideouts across the international border are increasingly feeling the heat of the civil war in adjoining Myanmar.Officials of the security forces manning the 1,643 km India-Myanmar border said the once-tolerant locals have been turning on the members of Manipur’s extremist groups, specifically the Valley-Based Insurgent Groups (VBIGs) over the past few months.VBIGs is a term for groups comprising people from Manipur’s Imphal Valley. Six of these groups, including the Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup and the Revolutionary People’s Front (RPF), often operate under the Coordination Committee.The pressure on the VBIGs is learnt to have increased since December 28, 2022, when three pro-democracy groups joined hands to ambush and kill seven members of the Shanni Nationalities Army (Red), a Burmese militia aligned with the Myanmar Army. The ambush happened between Myothit and Mintha on the Indo-Myanmar Friendship Road that India’s Border Roads Organisation built more than a decade ago.The VBIGs, virtually driven out of Manipur after intensified counter-insurgency operations, have reportedly been fighting alongside the Myanmar Army as a quid pro quo arrangement for using the country as a hitherto safe haven.The three pro-democracy outfits that carried out the ambush are the 1 Battalion of the People’s Democratic Force of the Tamu region near Manipur’s border town Moreh, the Kuki National Army (Burma) and the little-known Kabaw Chin National Defence Force.These groups mostly comprise the communities belonging to the Kuki-Chin ethnic group. The Kuki-Chin people live on either side of the India-Myanmar border.The December 28 ambush is believed to be connected to the killing of three leaders of the People’s Liberation Army, the military wing of the RPF, on the outskirts of Myanmar’s Momo village near Onziya in September 2022.‘Not welcome anymore’“These incidents beyond the confrontations between the pro-democracy forces and the Myanmar Army are a fallout of the ongoing civil war in the country. These are messages from the natives that foreign forces trying to put up obstructions in the path of their fight for democracy are no longer welcome,” a senior officer of a paramilitary force said, declining to be quoted.The first clash between pro-democracy militias and the VBIGs was reported by a Myanmar-based independent newsgroup on May 12, 2021. The report said the militias killed 15 soldiers of the Myanmar Military Council in a two-day battle in Tamu town and neighbouring Pan Thar village.The piece of news also said four of the 15 killed were Kathe, the Burmese term for Meitei, the dominant community in Imphal Valley. There is a sizeable Meitei population in Myanmar’s Kabaw Valley of which Tamu is a part.Security officials said the VBIGs together have about 700 members. Each group pays a hefty sum in US dollars to the Myanmar junta for maintaining the camps besides, as was the case earlier, buying peace with the locals in cash and kind.“But the junta has been demanding more from the VBIGs since the military coup in February 2021. The primary demand from each VBIG is the supplying of at least 30 members to fight the pro-democracy forces in Myanmar Army uniform,” the paramilitary officer said.On May 24, 2021, Myanmar military officials had a meeting with 14 top leaders of the VBIGs apparently to work on strategies against the armed pro-democracy activists.
Source : The Hindu