Myanmar army defector recounts heavy losses inflicted by Chin rebels

A Myanmar army officer who defected and fled the country has shared a rare first-hand account of intensified fighting in the northwestern Chin state.

Kaung Thu Win, a captain who defected in December, has given details of battlefield losses where the military junta has faced some of the fiercest armed resistance since it seized power a year ago.

"At least 50 soldiers died and about 200 got injured in May to December as various armed clashes broke out in Chin state."

He says he switched sides after hearing reports by colleagues of military abuses of power.

Speaking from northwestern India, the 32-year-old showed Reuters his national and military identity cards.

He also showed Reuters some 30 classified army documents he said backed up his version of events in Chin state, where civilians opposed to the coup have taken up arms and are working with an established ethnic insurgent group.

He based his estimate of military casualties on that information.

The documents, stored on his mobile device, add new details of a major clash near the town of Mindat that have not previously been reported.

They provide further evidence of a growing popular rebellion against Myanmar's military rulers that has spread across the country.

Four other Myanmar defectors who reviewed some of the documents said they mirrored others they had seen in terms of language, format and descriptions of combat.

The former captain says his position as liaison officer meant that military documents were provided to him by staff at the regional headquarters that oversaw his frontline outpost in Chin.

He said he also had access to accounts of the Mindat ambush because he was part of the military investigation into the incident.

Myanmar's military, known as the Tatmadaw, has acknowledged battlefield losses, but it has not provided details.

The Tatmadaw did not respond to requests for comment on events in Chin, the account given by Kaung Thu Win or the documents that he produced.

The military has previously described armed groups opposed to the junta as "terrorists."

"I saw circumstances in which soldiers are hated more by people, and more people get killed by soldiers. But I stayed calm and did not leave the military yet at that time because my wife was pregnant and I didn't have any connection with armed groups. Two months later, after my wife delivered our baby, I decided to defect to the other side.... The Chinland Defence Force did not trust me initially because they had doubts about a military captain wanting to defect to them. But I have convinced them. To gain their trust and show my commitment, I have handed weapons over to them."

The Chinland Defence Force has confirmed that it helped the former captain to flee the country, after purchasing his weapons.

"Right now, even the police are assigned to take military action, in cooperation with soldiers, for the arrest of civilians and raiding of residences. They try to recruit manpower by all means when they lose soldiers at battles. Their resources are not dramatically depleting because they order (soldiers') wives to guard bases in order to send more men to the frontline."