Myanmar Junta Deputy Visits Kayah State Amid Heavy Fighting

By The Irrawaddy 16 March 2023

Amid heavy fighting, including on the Shan-Kayah border, deputy junta chief Soe Win visited Loikaw, the capital of Kayah State, on Wednesday.

Around 2,000 junta troops have been fighting Karenni resistance forces in the state since late February. Pa-O National Organization (PNO) troops are fighting alongside the regime.

Soe Win’s visit to Loikaw coincided with junta attacks in Bawlake, Demoso, Shadaw and eastern Pekon townships.

He previously visited Kayah in February last year when he attempted to encourage military personnel and their families amid the growing resistance movement.

Soe Win this week told soldiers to perform their duties at any risk. He called for solidarity within the army and urged them to effectively use their weapons.

He also met community elders, business owners and faith leaders and called for cooperation for stability.

The purpose of Soe Win’s visit might be to boost junta reinforcements in Kayah. Observers said he was abusing religion by meeting faith leaders in Loikaw.

Junta troops have reportedly torched Buddhist monasteries and civilian houses and used Pa-O residents as human shields in Pinlaung in the Pa-O self-administered zone and Pekon in southern Shan State.

During his visit to southern Shan State last week, junta boss Min Aung Hlaing visited former PNO chairman U Aung Kham Hti at his house.

Once counted among Myanmar’s many ethnic armed groups, the PNO signed a ceasefire with the regime in 1991, transforming into a political party with a militia that manages security in the Pa-O zone.

U Aung Kham Hti had close ties with successive military leaders, including ex-dictator Than Shwe.

On March 11, 22 villagers, including three Buddhist monks who had been sheltering at a monastery in Nam Name village, Pinalung, were killed by junta troops, according to the civilian National Unity Government.

The regime blamed racial strife between Pa-O and Karenni communities.

Myanmar’s regime declared martial law in Bawlake, Hpruso, Demoso and Shadaw townships in early February.

The regime reinforced Chin State amid heavy clashes in Sagaing and Magwe regions.