Myanmar junta forces arrested more than 30 people, including an MP-elect, during a raid Tuesday on Lay Kay Kaw new city in Karen State’s Myawaddy, which is home to many democracy activists opposing the regime.
Some 200 junta troops approached the city in four columns, checking everyone they encountered and raiding houses. As of Tuesday afternoon they had arrested at least 32 people and seized two guns, according to sources in Lay Kay Kaw who spoke on condition of anonymity.
U Wai Lin Aung, a Lower House MP-elect representing the National League for Democracy (NLD) for Myaung Mya Township of Ayeyarwaddy Region, was among the detainees, according to party sources. Many fear that the other detainees include striking civil servants and youth who had joined local People’s Defense Force groups.
Security has been tightened near Lay Kay Kaw since Monday, a Myawaddy resident told The Irrawaddy, while junta troops have surrounded the city for the past several days. “They carefully check everyone in and out of the city, and their phones,” the local resident said on Tuesday.
Located about 20 km south of Myawaddy, Lay Kay Kaw new city was developed with the support of Japan’s Nippon Foundation in 2015, a year after the Karen National Union (KNU), an ethnic armed organization, and the quasi-civilian government initiated refugee repatriation and rehabilitation programs. The city was opened to settlement in March 2016. But the city area is under the control of the KNU, Myanmar’s oldest autonomy-seeking revolutionary group, in particular Brigade 6 of its armed wing, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), whose troops operate in the area.
The city became a popular destination for striking civil servants and pro-democracy activists after the junta’s lethal crackdowns against the anti-regime movement in February.
The sources said the military’s movements had been heavy over the past two days and people were on alert for more raids. Tuesday’s raid was the seventh in Lay Kay Kaw since September.
A Myawaddy resident added that the junta has been targeting Lay Kay Kaw with raids whenever weapons are seized in Karen State.
The regime’s Myawady TV said on Nov. 25 that the KNU had organized military training for civilian resistance forces with the support of the country’s shadow National Unity Government in areas under the group’s control in the southern part of the country.
Citing information extracted during interrogations of 20 people arrested for attacks on regime targets, it said brigades 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 of the KNLA offered the training, gave shelter to those evading arrest by the regime and supplied arms to groups engaged in urban guerrilla warfare in a number of cities and towns in the country.
Ko Zeyar Lwin, a former University Student Union member, said no one knows how the military is able to determine which locations to raid. “They entered in formation in military columns. People are hiding in their homes in fear. The junta troops control the road and it is not easy to go in or out,” he said.
“It is not safe for striking civilians to continue taking shelter in the new city,” he said.
The Irrawaddy has learned that the military commander of Military Operation Command (MOC) 13 led the raid, and that the military recorded the locations of the houses to be raided with drones on Monday evening.
Locals are concerned that the military raids will lead to the outbreak of fighting between the junta forces and local KNLA troops.
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