Myanmar Junta Deploys Reinforcements to Eliminate Kayah Civilian Resistance

By The Irrawaddy 10 June 2021

Myanmar’s military has been intensifying efforts to seize control of Kayah State’s Demoso Township from the combined forces of the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force (KNDF) and People Defense Force (PDF). Fighting began in the township, which sits on a key road junction, on May 21.

The military has used artillery in civilian areas, particularly Dawt Ngan Khar ward on the highway from Demoso to Taungoo in Bago Region, which suffers daily barrages.

“They launched artillery attacks [on Wednesday] but we did not confront the military. If they enter Dawt Ngan Khar ward, clashes occur. When they use artillery, we fall back and they torch the houses. Artillery attacks have increased in recent days,” said a PDF spokesman in Demoso.

Military trucks heading to Loikaw from Taungoo on the Taungoo-Thandaunggyi road. / CJ

The regime has reportedly deployed reinforcements from Taungoo against Dawt Ngan Khar.

The PDF spokesman said resistance fighters would defend the town. “We will try our best to prevent them taking our town,” he said.

The regime’s state officials issued a directive on June 4 saying the PDF would be eliminated in the township and all civilians should leave.

Over 100 regime troops are stationed across the state border in Leiktho, Bago Region, according to the KNDF’s information officer.

Junta troops move to Loikaw on the Taungoo-Thandaunggyi road. / CJ

He said the armed group would continue to oppose the junta forces. “Wherever they come from, either Taungoo or Shan State, we are ready to fight, to protect our homes and our state,” he said.

Junta forces have been deployed in Myaung Auk, Ngwe Taung and Dawt Ngan Khar wards in Demoso town with Infantry Battalion 102 controlling the east of the town.

Electricity has been cut for four days in the west of the town, where the civilian forces are based. Mobile and internet connections are also down.

A Demoso resident said Dawt Ngan Khar’s houses have been destroyed. “It is not fighting between the troops and the resistance. They [junta troops] are just destroying people’s abandoned homes. They have no ethics and just want to destroy everything.”

Houses destroyed by junta artillery in Dawt Ngan Khar, Demoso. / CJ

Junta troops have reportedly buried dead soldiers in village cornfields. Churches have also been destroyed.

An artillery attack on a church in Kayan Thar Yar village on May 24 killed four sheltering civilians, prompting residents to flee into forests.

The Irrawaddy is unable to confirm the exact casualty numbers.

Troops have also reportedly fired on villages displaying white flags sheltering displaced residents from Loikaw and Pekon Township in Shan State.

More than 100,000 villages from Demoso, Hpruso and Loikaw have been displaced with many in hiding, too scared to establish camps as they fear further attacks.

Houses destroyed by junta artillery in Dawt Ngan Khar, Demoso. / CJ

A Kayah-based ethnic armed organization, the Karenni National Progress Party (KNPP), urged the military to follow its code of conduct and avoid targeting civilian homes and religious buildings.

KNPP’s secretary Khu Daniel told The Irrawaddy this week that the armed group stands by the people. He said the military’s excessive use of force increased tensions and encourage more civilians to oppose the regime.

Since the Feb. 1 coup, the regime has faced protests in towns and cities and shootouts across Kayah, Chin and Kachin states and Sagaing, Magwe and Mandalay regions. The regime has killed at least 858 people and detained nearly 6,000 people, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

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