Dozens of Myanmar Junta Soldiers Killed in Karen State

By The Irrawaddy 2 June 2021

Fighting between the Myanmar military and a combined force of Karen State-based ethnic armed groups and the Myawaddy People’s Defense Force (PDF) left 32 junta troops dead on Tuesday.

The clash in eastern Myanmar on Tuesday afternoon in Palu in Myawaddy Township, Karen State caused over 500 local residents to flee across the nearby border with Thailand.

Fighting continued on Wednesday in Waw Lay in the south of Palu, according to locals and members of the Myawaddy PDF. Residents said that they had heard dozens of rounds of artillery fire since Tuesday.

29 junta soldiers and three members of the local Border Guard Force (BGF), which is allied to the Myanmar military, were killed and eight others wounded during the clash with the civilian resistance fighters and a splinter group of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, according to the Karen National Union’s (KNU) department of information for Dooplaya District.

A member of Myawaddy’s PDF said that the 29 soldiers killed were from Light Infantry Battalion 275, which is based in Myawaddy, and the three BGF soldiers from BGF’s battalion 1022, which is led by Major Mote Thone, the second in command of the BGF.

Tuesday’s fighting in Palu came as clashes between civilian resistance fighters and junta forces have intensified nationwide, with fighting in Kayah State in the southeast, Chin State in the west, Sagaing Region in the northwest and Kachin State in the north. Both sides have reported casualties.

Residents in Palu have frequently been displaced during the past half century because of prolonged fighting between the Myanmar military and various ethnic Karen armed groups demanding self-determination and equality.

On Tuesday, more than 500 villagers from Palu fled their homes and are taking temporary shelter in Mae Koh Kae village in Thailand’s Tak province.

Food and shelter is being provided by the Thai authorities and Thai army, while no outsiders are allowed contact with the refugees, due to the fear of COVID-19, according to a local relief worker, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The relief worker said more refugees are expected as they can hear the sound of artillery fire in Waw Lay on the other side of the frontier. She said one artillery shell had landed in Thailand on Wednesday but no casualties were reported.

At around 4:50am on Tuesday, the police station in Waw Lay was also attacked with rocket-propelled grenades and the barracks of a military engineering battalion was set ablaze, but no casualties have been reported. The KNU’s department of information in Dooplaya District said the artillery attacks followed the early morning incidents.

On Monday, the Myawaddy PDF and its allied forces arrested three police and one firefighter in Waw Lay town for trespassing into their territory in Palu, but released them the next morning.

There are around 20 ethnic armed groups fighting the Myanmar military. So far, though, only the Chin National Front has publicly committed to working with the civilian National Unity Government formed to topple the junta.

While some brigades of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), the armed wing of the KNU, have been fighting the military continuously since the Feb. 1 coup, the KNU has not publicly announced its support for the People’s Defense Forces formed recently to battle the junta.

The KNLA’s brigade five also briefly clashed with junta forces on Tuesday morning in Ku Seik and Ma Htaw villages in Papun Township. The KNU said five junta soldiers were killed, citing sources at the frontline.

You may also like these stories:

Myanmar Reports Record Rise in COVID-19 Cases Since February

Myanmar Timber Auction Disappoints Cash-Strapped Junta

To Disband NLD, Myanmar Junta to Probe for ‘Violations’ of Parties’ Registration Pledges