“How Will Residents Rebuild Their Lives?”: The Strategy of City Capture Battles

Myanmar Spring Chronicle – April 29 Scenes
MoeMaKa, April 30, 2024

“How Will Residents Rebuild Their Lives?”: The Strategy of City Capture Battles

Seeing the burning houses, and the destruction of buildings, monasteries, hospitals, and schools by airstrikes after city capture battles as reported in some news media and social media recently, I felt heartbroken. Although I can’t fully grasp the residents’ suffering, the devastation is clear.

The scenes of broken brick walls, destroyed fences, houses with only a small plinth bridge at the entrance, and houses with nothing left but charred roof tins and some walls, along with hospitals and schools left as mere frameworks, paint a vivid picture of the war’s destruction.

Why is it important to capture cities? Are they targeting cities because they symbolize governance and power? Is it necessary to capture cities for taxation and administration? Are they capturing cities because military camps and battalions are attached to them to gradually dismantle the military dictatorship? Such questions have crossed my mind.

When Operation 1027 started in northern Shan State, military camps were attacked and captured first, rather than cities. Roads were cut off, and military camps were captured before the cities fell one by one. The damage to cities in northern Shan State during the operation was relatively less. Houses in Hsenwi and Namhkam were destroyed by airstrikes, but the destruction wasn’t as severe as in the villages of Sagaing Division and the Anyar (upland) region.

In Sagaing Division, villages were burned and destroyed by the military council troops using a scorched-earth strategy and collective punishment, resulting in the burning of food, assets, properties, houses, and buildings to ashes. Some villages were torched more than once, with even temporary houses and tents rebuilt after being burned down, set ablaze again during subsequent military patrols. The Anyar region of Sagaing Division and upper Magway Division were the most affected by the war, suffering the most damage, with 80 percent of the houses burned down nationwide occurring in these areas.

Recently, similar incidents have occurred in Karen and Mon States, notably in Kawkareik Town, Kaw Bein Village, and Dhammatha Village. A few days after the military council regained control of Kawkareik Town after Thingyan, it announced that residents could return. Some residents who had been displaced for five months returned with cars and motorcycles, likely to assess the damage to their homes. It is clear there will be many challenges in living in a town where electricity poles are down, cables are cut, and shops remain closed.

Similarly, the military council has announced that locals can return to Dhammatha Village in Kyaikmaraw Township, Mon State. The public must carefully consider whether to resettle and trust that the military council has regained control, especially with the possibility of renewed fighting.

Questions arise about why revolutionary forces decided to capture cities, the strategy behind it, and why controlling cities is deemed more important than military camps, battalions, and bases. There should be reasonable and satisfactory answers. Otherwise, the eagerness to capture cities without maintaining control will only lead to their destruction.

Strategies and tactics should benefit the community, as it may take decades to rebuild after losing houses, food, and all necessary means of livelihood in both villages and urban areas.

Capturing a city is indeed inspiring and symbolic, but the enemy’s destruction of the city as a lifeless hostage leaves residents in total devastation.

If residents in conflict areas cannot survive and recover, they will no longer be able to support revolutionary movements.

In conclusion, attacking and capturing cities should not be the first step but the last in gaining control of a region. Only when a certain level of military success and control is achieved should the goal of capturing cities be implemented.

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