Genocides, ethnic cleansing, democide — whatever name affixes itself to the act, there is one thing for certain: it takes a whole lot of work. The sheer amount of resources it takes to violently murder on a mass-scale, and displace, say, 650,000 people, involves a significant amount of resources and time. However, most regimes that decide to carry out these horrendous acts tend to be lacking in the resources department, so they have to get creative.
One common method that works quite effectively is to knock out a group’s healthcare infrastructure. Many of the major killers in a genocide isn’t so much the traumatic injuries, rather, it’s the lack of any regular medicine or even basic hygiene products that those in the west take for granted — things like treatment for diarrhea or pneumonia become major killers where they used to be easily treated.
Another effective method is indirect fire (IDF), and in the case of Burma, specifically mortars.
The conflicts in Burma are not typically religious or nationalistic in nature. The Burmese government is not on a crusade and its soldiers are not dedicated, devout followers. They commit acts of violence against civilians — to include rape and executions, throwing babies against trees, or burning families in their homes — when it is convenient and of low risk to themselves. After all, they’re already going way out of their way, through an immensely harsh jungle, just to fight a group that is largely populated by people who would rather just be left alone. Sources on the ground have told SOFREP that when taking fire even from a few locals, a much stronger Burmese military force will still break contact simply because they aren’t willing to die for the mission they’re on.
So they employ these tactics that minimize risk, and what could minimize risk more than having the standoff that IDF provides?
When fighting in Afghanistan, American forces may see a threat and decide to take care of it by calling in mortars or artillery. They use precise distances and directions and, if everything goes well, rounds land on target. Training is provided to mitigate risks and mistakes, to better provide men and women on the ground with tools to be successful.
The Burmese military has gained most of their mortar experience from “combat” scenarios. They do not have precision training like the United States, and those on the receiving end might fear the lucky incoming round, but they don’t often fear accurate fire from the Burmese Army. Similar reports come out of Afghanistan when American soldiers or Marines are under mortar fire from Taliban insurgents.
Still, they maximize the effectiveness with what they have.
The Burmese military is not usually interested in precisely striking singular targets and they often target civilians, let alone not trying to avoid them. A village is an easy target for any mortarman, especially if you’re on an adjacent hill and you can see your own rounds impacting and adjust as necessary. A family home is struck and that means mission-success, all without much risk to the force.
“Softening a target” this way makes it a lot easier for the Burmese Army to then clear through the objective, and continued to commit their infamous war crimes that have been documented time and time again, among different peoples of different religions all throughout Burma.
The civilians have often resorted to hiding in the jungle, but food is scarce. They still rely on rice as a main source of food, which has to be harvested from rice paddies across the Burmese countryside. The Karen, for example, had a problem with this. Sources tell SOFREP that the Burmese military, if they couldn’t find the people themselves to mortar, would simply fire a round or two into rice paddies. The people would scatter, running for their lives.
They would do this time and time again, and hunger became a real issue. The Karen would have to rely entirely on hunting and harvesting rice at great risk to themselves.
The Karen are currently under a teetering ceasefire in the east, but the conflict with the same Burmese Army rages on in the west, as the military uses similar tactics against the Rohingya.
Featured image: A Kachin Independence Army soldier readies for a fight in a trench on the front lines in 2016; trenches are used for both protection from gunfire and the commonly utilized indirect fire, often used to target civilian villages as well as soldiers. | AP Photo/Esther Htusan