The Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and its resistance allies, including the Kyar Phyu (White Tiger) group, attacked Myanmar junta targets in Kawkareik, Karen State, where the KNLA’s political wing, the Karen National Union’s (KNU) Brigade 6 is based, on October 21.
Kawkareik town is on the trade route with Thailand and held by junta troops while Karen armed groups control rural areas.
The October 21 attack was described in the media as an offensive to seize the town from the junta. But KNLA Battalion 27 commander Lieutenant Colonel Saw Yan Naing said the attack was a response to regime refusals to withdraw from Karen villages in southern Kawkareik and to stop junta shelling. Lt-Col Saw Yan Naing talked to The Irrawaddy about the fighting.
How long did the fighting last?
The fighting continued all day. We attacked at 7am from the north and south and took a police outpost and crushed junta security forces at a hilltop outpost. Then we attacked a police station and Battalion 97 in the town.
We stayed in the town the whole day. After regime air strikes and junta troops left southern Kawkareik to reinforce the town — which was our primary objective — we withdrew.
Our objective was to force junta troops from southern Kawkareik and not to control the town.
But from the experience, we believe we will be able to take the town if we follow a systematic plan.
How many casualties did the revolutionary forces suffer?
One fighter died and three others were injured. According to the commander Bo Kyaw Thet, around nine junta personnel were killed. And weapons were seized from the hilltop outpost.
How many civilian casualties were reported in Kawkareik?
We attacked where there were few civilian houses and mainly staff quarters. But civilians were hit by junta shells in Khin Aye Mu village, which is far from where we attacked.
There have been criticisms about Brigade 6’s good treatment of prisoners of war. Why does the brigade treat captives well?
People have criticized us for the way we handle prisoners of war. The KNU is an armed organization with political objectives. We are not blood-thirsty killers. The KNU strictly follows the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war.
We feed them properly, treat them humanely and keep them freely and do not tie them up unless necessary. We are fighting because we oppose the dictatorship. We don’t want to be the next dictators.
What do you want to tell junta soldiers, police and civil servants who have not yet joined the Civil Disobedience Movement [CDM]?
They are junta supporters. We will decisively defeat them on the battleground as they are pillars of the regime. But we will handle detainees in line with international provisions.
As to strikers who have joined the CDM, we warmly welcome them and arrange our best for them. Even if they want to bring families, we try our best and carry out family reunion programs.
What message do you want to give the people?
There is one message: many people have endured everything unbowed. I bow to them. Some want to join [the revolution]. But they have fears, concerns and doubts that the revolution will win. Do not fear because we will definitely win this fight.