GUWAHATI, May 11 - Members of the militant outfits of the Northeast, who had been camping in the Taga area of Myanmar, were caught totally off guard when the Myanmar Army launched an offensive against them. However, the United Liberation Front of Asom (Independent) members, who recently laid down arms, are of the view that the outfit would be able to survive in the neighbouring country as long as the NSCN(K) can manage to sustain itself in that country.
A self-styled lieutenant rank member of the ULFA(I), who recently came overground after spending nearly a decade in Myanmar, said that though all the outfits kept tabs on the movement of Myanmar Army, the crackdown caught them unawares. He said on January 29, at around 10:30 am, Myanmar Army officials called a senior NSCN(K) leader and asked the outfit to vacate the camps immediately. �For four days we had seen a little unusual movement of Myanmar Army in that area, but we never expected that a crackdown would be launched,� he said.
The ULFA(I) member, who preferred anonymity, was a close associate of one of the top leaders of the outfit and was privy to some key information about the activities of the ULFA(I). He said that immediately after receiving the order from Myanmar Army, the NSCN(K) started the process of vacating its central headquarters by carrying only the arms and ammunition and as the other militant groups were also staying in Taga with the help of NSCN(K), they were also asked to vacate the camps immediately. The ULFA(I) camps were located at a distance of around one hour�s walk from the NSCN(K) headquarters. The ULFA(I) also vacated its camps in Taga immediately and the members moved out in different directions. Some are living in transit hideouts or temporary camps and some in makeshift camps, while some members are also staying in Naga villages. The ULFA(I) member asserted that the outfit would be able to sustain itself in Myanmar as long as NSCN(K) survives there.
In its Taga headquarters, the ULFA(I) members cultivated rice in around 10 acres of land, while some horticulture crops and agar were also raised. The militant group also raised a poultry. But the Myanmar Army personnel destroyed all those and it may be difficult for the members of the outfit to transport food to the jungles where they are staying. The transportation facility, though costly, was easier in the Taga area, but moving food items to the makeshift hideouts in dense forests will not be that easy, the ULFA(I) member said.
On his reasons for coming overground, he said, �Some of us have realised the fact that it will not be possible to take on the might of Indian force by launching a small scale guerrilla war and we do not see any major country coming forward to help us in the struggle. The mass base of the ULFA(I) has also become very weak. But the historical demand for sovereignty cannot be overlooked and the sustenance of the ULFA(I) would depend on the policies of the Central and State governments towards Assam.�