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Young women join the fight on Myanmar’s front lines

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An 18-year-old recruit in one of Myanmar’s pro-democracy fighting units prepares to launch a drone strike on junta troops, driven by anger and her mother’s call for revolution.

Moe Moe is one of hundreds of women training, living and fighting alongside men in the “People’s Defence Forces”, upending gender norms in the mostly Buddhist country.

Moe Moe initially worked with a group organising protests against the military but, after months of the junta’s’ deadly crackdown, decided to become a fighter. “I can’t stand the military’s injustice,” she said after carrying out the drone strike in Shan state.

Moe Moe, who uses a pseudonym for security reasons, is one of around 100 women in the Mandalay PDF, which has clashed regularly with the junta in Shan state and Mandalay.

Moe Moe and other women make up around a third of the group’s drone unit, challenging the military’s dominance of the skies by flying commercial drones adapted to carry bombs that can be dropped on junta positions.

“If I drop bombs directly onto a military target I feel very good for the rest of that day. It motivates me,” she said. “I want more drone missions and to better show what I can do.”

Soe Thuya Zaw, a male soldier in charge of drone operations, said his women comrades had proved to be formidable assets. “We believe in the ability of women,” he said.


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