“The bunker was filled with gun smoke, and we couldn’t see a thing,” said Daw Chaw Su, describing her first time in combat after joining the People’s Defence Force (PDF).
“When I told my officer that I am willing to join armed combat, he quizzed me if I really want to join the fighting before finally allowing me,” she said, explaining how she arrived on the frontline on January 18.
Within a couple of days at Huay Hkar with the PDF and Kachin Independence Army (KIA), she had her first taste of war during clashes with the State Administration Council (SAC) as the only female soldier in the battle.
By the time the 40-year-old arrived at the village, the battle was in full swing, and food was starting to run out for the hungry and tired Kachin soldiers who were situated at the base of SAC’s Infantry Battalion hilltop camp. Quickly assessing the situation, Chaw Su made the risky decision to send food to her troops where both sides were exchanging fire.
“Nobody dared to go there at that time.”
A Kachin soldier was killed that day, and she and others retrieved his body with great difficulties.
“After my comrade was killed, I told my officer that I would shoot gun by myself. At first, he didn’t allow me to do it but finally agreed. I went to the nearest position. Many bullets were flying over my head.”
KIA and PDF troops began their attack on the strategically located camp between Indawgyi Lake and Hpakant Region on January 6. By the 20th, they had seized the camp, capturing many troops and weapons from the regime.
Raised in the Huay Hkar area in Hpakant Township, Kachin State, Chaw Su’s Shan parents passed away when she was very young, and she was adopted by a Kachin family.
Chaw Su’s Kachin name is Jangmaw Hkawng Shawng.
She is a single mother of four daughters and two sons. Before divorcing her husband, who was in the jade business, her family was well off. Chaw Su owned a clothing shop, had a home and car.
After the coup in 2021, Chaw Su couldn’t accept the injustice under the military and joined the protest movement against the dictatorship at a time when her marriage was failing.
In May of that year, she decided as a protest leader it was time to join the armed struggle. It was during that time that the army began employing lethal force against demonstrators, and many people were killed, injured, or arrested just for peacefully standing for democracy.
Chaw Su accepted training from the KIA at the end of May. When they asked the group of 14 PDF recruits who would be the team leader, she volunteered. Chaw Su was eager to join the armed struggle because she believed it is the only path to take to ensure her six children would have a future in Burma.
“Our country is very poor. Why is that? Even though our country has many precious jade stones, most people have no money. Only a few people are rich, but the majority of the population are impoverished,” she told KNG.
After completing her training and returning to Huay Hkar, news spread of Chaw Su being a member of a PDF, so she had to leave her home for the security of her family.
At the start of her new military career, she distributed food to soldiers until she sold her car. Without a vehicle and much money, “I faced many hardships,” Chaw Su said. But she said that her Christian faith kept her strong as she believes everything is in the hands of God.
Chaw Su said her comrades still thank her for fearlessly bringing food to soldiers near Huay Hkar village.
“After the clash, some officials wanted to see me. They told me that the KIA headquarters have promoted me as a sergeant.”
Although she’s happy about it, she never joined the armed struggle to rise up the ranks.
“What I really want is peace to be restored in our country.”
Once seen only as a mother, Chaw Su is now a hero for residents of Hpakant Region.
“As a woman, we do not need to give up. What I want to say is that woman can participate in this movement from every corner. And I do believe that we will experience victory one day if we remain committed,” she said.
Once the dictatorship is defeated, Chaw Su said all she wants is to live peacefully with her children.