Karen Rebel Army Braced for Myanmar Junta’s Major Offensive

By The Irrawaddy 25 August 2021

Fighting between Myanmar’s military and the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) is being reported across Karen State since junta troops reinforcements arrived.

The military activity has increased this month with 81 times of clashes reported by August 20 by KNLA Brigades 1, 2, 3 and 5 in Thaton Township in Mon State, Taungoo and Nyaunglebin townships in Bago Region and Papun Township in Karen State, according to the Karen National Union, the KNLA’s political wing.

Fighting has been reported almost every day this month in KNLA-controlled areas in Thaton, Paan and Papun townships, according to the armed group.

On Monday and Tuesday, brief clashes were reported in at least two separate places on the Salween River in Papun within the KNLA Brigade 5’s territory, according to its spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Saw Kler Doh. Monday’s clash was between the KNLA and the military-backed Karen Border Guard Force (BGF).

On Monday afternoon, fighting occurred between Brigade 6 and BGF troops in Kawkareik and Kyainseikgyi townships in Karen State.

A Brigade 6 source said: “The military’s activity has increased. We told them we will not allow them to enter our territory.”

Following the February 1 coup, some KNLA brigades have been sheltering striking civil servants and providing combat training to civilians volunteering to fight the junta.

KNLA troops inflicted heavy casualties on the military, in addition to seizing at least five military camps near the Salween along the Thai border between March and May.

Rising BGF activity has led some sources to expect military attacks on the KNLA.

Padoh Mahn Mahn, a KNU spokesman in Papun District, said there are rumors of major military attacks against KNLA Brigade 5 in an attempt to crush public demands for the National Unity Government to launch attacks on the junta.

“They are planning for the Karen BGF to attack to start fighting within Karen communities,” said Mahn Mahn.

Major Saw Tin Win from the BGF said the organization was not involved in plans to attack Brigade 5. He said the troop deployments were regular.

The deputy junta chief, Vice Senior General Soe Win, reportedly visited Thaton, where the regime’s Brigade 44 is stationed, on Aug. 19 and ordered offensives against the KNU, according to the Salween Press.

The junta denied the visit.

But junta attacks on the KNLA’s Brigades 5 and 1 are imminent, according to a military source.

“We have heard that the military is planning to launch operations against the People’s Defense Forces and areas sheltering striking civil servants. If this is true, everyone will have to defend themselves,” said Padoh Mahn Mahn.

The military has recently increased security on roads and is checking people’s movements in Karen State.

“They check motorbikes and anyone who refuses to cooperate risks being shot,” said a KNLA Brigade 1 source, in reference to two residents of Moe Kaung village tract in Thaton who were killed on Aug. 14. Soldiers shot at four young men on two motorbikes who did not stop for troops. Two were killed and the other two were detained.

“Tensions are high but there has not been recent fighting,” said the KNLA source.

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