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The Life of a Shan Woman Fighter

(Mizzima) - Nang Kya is following in her father's footsteps with lofty dreams of defeating the Burmese Army. The young Shan woman is one of a number of women willing to serve in uniform at the Shan military base at Loi Tai Leng.

Nang-KyaNang Kya, 30, is a member of the Shan State Army-South (SSA-S), or Shan State Army for short, and plays a small but crucial role as deputy of the health department at the headquarters of the Shan resistance group. The SSA-S broke away from the late Shan leader Khun Sa when he put down his weapons in a deal with the military junta in January 1996.

Dressed in military fatigues, Nang Kya tells Mizzima what inspired her to take up the fight. “I joined the SSA (SSA-S) to serve the Shan people," she says. "I want to be part of history where we can defeat the Burmese Army."

The young Shan fighter was born in Ho Mong, opposite Mae Hong Son in Thailand, and her father was a Shan soldier who used to fight alongside Khun Sa. Her family remained in the town after Khun Sa surrendered to the government.

She joined the SSA-S in 2003 after working in Thailand for a few months, keeping it a secret from her parents. “I couldn't stop myself from joining," she says. "I know that I will face a hard life on the mountain, and it will be worse because I am a woman, but I am happy. At least I can serve our people.”

Nang Kya went through six months of tough military training before being assigned to serve in the mountain post at Loi Tai Leng. Very few of the women she trained with are posted to the battle front like her. Some were assigned as teachers and nurses elsewhere. Only volunteers serve as nurses to treat sick and wounded soldiers and local people on the front lines.

SSA-S-headquartersWhen asked about any discrimination against women in the resistance force, she said this is rare because the men and women fighters help each other. According to her, "It is a time for the unity of the resistance, and discrimination against women would only weaken the force.” She adds that a few young Shan women join the resistance as an alternative to eking out a living in the jungle.

When asked whether she would prefer to spend her life as other women do in the cities, shopping and visiting beauty parlours, she smiles. “Of course, I want to go shopping but I have chosen my life as a resistance fighter," she says. "I am not jealous of other women. We have different lives and we choose our own lives.”

Nang Kya feels a sense of purpose, even though she receives less than $20 per month as a stipend for her service. “We are happy with our work and that we are not living under the control of the Burmese Army."

Another female Shan fighter works alongside Nang Kya. Nang Mwe Leng is from Nam Kham Township, Northern Shan State. She joined the SSA-S in 2009. Now she serves as a nurse in the health center. “I joined the group because I feel that I can look after the patients here in Loi Tai Leng,” she says.

Lt. Gen. Yawd Serk leads the SSA-S, which is headquartered at Loi Tai Leng. The mountain base was set up in 1999 and is one of their six fortified military positions in Shan State that borders Thailand. The SSA-S is the only Shan group openly fighting against the Burmese regime. It is believed to be the strongest armed opposition group amongst those that have not signed ceasefire agreements.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 02 February 2011 13:57 )  

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