2 October 2021
Zomi Revolutionary Army-Eastern Command (ZRA-EC) reportedly arrested and tortured Hualngo People Defense Forces (PDF-Hualngo), newly formed resistance fighters operating in Tedim and Tonzang townships in northern Chin State, on 19 September.
It was not the first time ZRA-EC has attacked the local PDFs. ZRA-EC has conducted violent attacks against PDF-Zoland twice before on 22 May and on 16 June, destroying training camps near the India-Myanmar border and torturing members of PDF-Zoland, according to local media outlet-Zalen.
Day after their attack on PDF-Zoland on 16 June, ZRA-EC made a statement saying “They will not tolerate any armed activity within its operating areas.” However, they made no further elaboration about their intention for attacking PDFs.
ZRA-EC is known to have ties with Meitei rebel groups from India, a close ally of the Myanmar military. Meitei fighters have cooperated with Myanmar military regime on many occasions, including the fight against Kachin Independent Army (KIA) in 2012, and Tamu-PDFs more recently. “ZRA-EC is supported by Meitei rebel group, and they have a strong financial and technical support group in Tahan, Kalaymyo,” a member of PDF-Zoland told Zalen when asked about ZRA-EC’s attacks on their training camp.
Like other PDFs in Myanmar, young people from Tedim and Tonzang townships formed PDF-Zoland and PDF-Hualngo in early this year in response to the violent crackdowns on peaceful protesters by the Myanmar security forces after the February coup. Their goals are to end the military’s rule and restore democracy in Myanmar.
Following the formations of CDFs/PDFs in Chin State and the Sagaing Region, the Myanmar military (Kalay Regional Operations Commander) approached ZRA-EC and Naga’s rebel group through members of USDP (Union Solidarity and Development Party) in Kalaymyo. The Myanmar military requested the two rebel groups to join them in “clearance operation” against resistance fighters, including PDFs and CDFs, in the Kalay region and northern Chin State, a source close to The Chindwin reported. The Myanmar military’s approach to ZRA-EC and Naga rebel groups reportedly came after the Chin National Front (CNF) signed a deal with the National Unity Government (NUG) in May.
Naga rebel group declined the Myanmar military’s request. ZRA-EC, in contrast, accepted it. In return, the Myanmar military provided weapons and ammunition, including 15 MA-1 Assault rifles, our source added. Since then, PDF-Zoland and PDF-Hualngo have become their primary targets.
ZRA-EC also has a widespread reputation of involvement in drug trading and production along the India-Myanmar border. However, Chindwin could not independently obtain information related to drug trading and production.
Zomi Revolutionary Army (ZRA), an armed wing of Zomi Reunification Organization (ZRO), was initially active in Manipur India and northern Chin State. However, they became inactive for a long time in Chin State after reaching a bilateral ceasefire agreement with the Indian government in 2005.
ZRA-EC emerged in June 2017 on Facebook with old photos of parading soldiers. The group initially had around 40-50 troops in 2018, but it is unknown whether their members have increased.