The Venom Commando unit of the Karen National Defense Organization (KNDO) and allied resistance forces launched their attack on Myanmar junta’s Ukayit Hta outpost in Myawaddy Township near the Thai border in Karen State on June 26. Both sides suffered casualties and the resistance forces were close to seizing the outpost before they were pushed back. Fresh attacks were launched on Friday.
Venom suffered heavy casualties on the first day of the attack and the Cobra detachment, which included Karen National. Liberation Army troops and other resistance forces, had to reinforce Venom.
The assault has reportedly endured more than 125 airstrikes.
Venom commander Major Saw Win Myint recently talked to The Irrawaddy about the fighting.
What is the current situation?
Junta troops fought back fiercely. There have been many air raids. We got inside the perimeter fence. But as reinforcements fought back with close air support, we ran low on ammunition and had to withdraw. We heard deputy junta chief Soe Win is in Hpa-an [Karen State] and that the regime sent more than 1,000 reinforcements. But the soldiers inside the Ukayit Hta outpost dare not yet come out.
Has the KNDO aborted its mission?
Not yet. Our troops surround the outpost and we are discussing what to do next.
Can you estimate the casualties on both sides?
We have suffered eight fatalities and around 30 injuries. The regime suffered around 200 fatalities. Cobra’s commander has checked their casualties with a drone.
How are the airstrikes over Ukayit Hta different from previous raids in the area?
They are different. Previous aerial attacks were inaccurate and the aircraft only flew at high altitudes. But this time they flew low and were able to hit their targets. I don’t think the pilots are from Myanmar as they are highly skilled. They must be foreigners.
What have you found out from captured junta soldiers?
Their comments are contradictory. They are high on drugs. One said all the soldiers want to leave but they can’t. They know the people do not support them anymore.
What is the difference from other attacks?
They got information before our attack. They were fully prepared. They were deployed in houses in Ukayit Hta village and a mobile detachment was moving around outside the outpost. There were large numbers of heavily armed troops.
In our previous outposts attacks, soldiers were only from battalions nearby. But at Ukayit Hta, I think they replaced the original troops with experienced combatants.
At other outposts that we attacked, they stayed inside. But in Ukayit Hta, they are in defensive positions around the village. Their reconnaissance is good. They know our troop numbers.
Their weapons are powerful and they have air support and infantry reinforcements.
What lessons have you learned from Ukayit Hta?
Our weakness is that someone else decided to attack the outpost. He was not able to find out the exact number of troops at the outpost. When I inspected, I could not get close to the outpost. I could only observe from a distance and could not find out their numbers and how they had prepared. The village was isolated by regime soldiers.
Our communication devices are poor and we cannot effectively coordinate with each other in our attacks. And we cannot synchronize with our reinforcements and do not have enough weapons and ammunition. These are our disadvantages.
Why was Ukayit Hta chosen?
It is partly because people have requested that we attack the outpost. They will be trapped if they lose control of that outpost. And we will be able to take control of the strategically important hills.
What is your message about the fighting at Ukayit Hta?
We are not only fighting at Ukayit Hta. There is a war going on between us and the dictatorship. People should look at the fighting in other places. We have our weaknesses and so has the enemy. There is no need to feel downhearted even if we cannot seize the outpost.
We had to withdraw because of airstrikes. Their ground troops were not able to turn the situation around and fight back. Even when we withdrew, we defended ourselves and did not flee. They used large numbers of troops and the regime leaders are too overwhelmed to think clearly. They let their soldiers die in vain.