Myanmar women give birth in jungle
On a stormy night in June, Rosemary lay in the darkness of her home in a deserted village in Myanmar’s Mindat township, gripped by labour contractions as Mai Nightingale, a 25-year-old midwife, tried to stifle her cries.
“Only the two of us were left alone in the village. We closed all the doors and windows of the house and stayed quietly inside,” said Mai Nightingale. “When she felt pain, I put a blanket in her mouth because we feared that soldiers might hear her.” Like others interviewed for this article, Al Jazeera has used pseudonyms for Mai Nightingale and Rosemary for their safety.
Rosemary’s contractions had begun the previous night, but with soldiers approaching her village in southern Chin State, she and the other villagers fled into the forest. But there was no proper shelter from the unrelenting rain, so Rosemary and Mai Nightingale decided to take the risk of encountering soldiers and return the next morning.
“The situation didn’t favour delivering a baby,” said Mai Nightingale. “We saw Burmese soldiers walking towards our village but we couldn’t turn back because [Rosemary] was already exhausted.”
Rosemary’s husband did not dare accompany her for fear that, if seen, soldiers would mistake him for a member of a local armed group. Since a February 1 military coup, civilian defence forces, armed largely with hunting rifles and homemade weapons, have sprung up across the country to fight against the regime, and Mindat has been a hotspot of resistance since May.
In line with tactics the military has used for decades to quash an armed rebellion and terrorise the people, soldiers launched disproportionate attacks on Mindat including firing artillery, rocket-propelled grenades and machineguns into residential areas while imposing martial law, causing the town to empty, according to local media reports. Young men are particularly likely to be targeted.