Myanmar Junta Forces See Heavy Casualties in Lay Kay Kaw Clashes

By The Irrawaddy 17 December 2021

Myanmar junta troops sustained heavy losses this week in fighting in Lay Kay Kaw in Karen State’s Myawaddy, where they encountered a combined force of troops from the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and People’s Defense Force (PDF) civilian resistance groups from Wednesday.

As of Thursday, 18 junta soldiers had died and eight others had been captured during the fighting, the National Unity Government (NUG) said.

The Karen National Union (KNU), the political wing of the KNLA, condemned the regime’s attack as a “violation of human rights” and “destroying peace” in a statement on Thursday, adding that four junta troops—a captain and three sergeants—were killed during the clashes on Wednesday and it was still verifying Thursday’s causalities. On Friday, the KNU released pictures of eight soldiers arrested during the fighting. Among them, two were members of the Karen Border Guard Force, which is backed by the military and joined forces with the junta soldiers.

Military tensions rose this week when some 200 junta soldiers raided the area on Tuesday, alleging that democracy activists and members of People’s Defense Force (PDF) civilian resistance groups were hiding there. Two MPs-elect from the National League for Democracy (NLD), U Wai Lin Aung and Dr. Pyae Phyo, were among around 40 people detained by the junta on that day.

The raids and clashes followed the junta’s accusation that the KNU, Myanmar’s oldest revolutionary force, was supporting and sheltering striking civil servants and anti-regime armed resistance groups.

Padoh Saw Kwe Htoo Win, the vice chairman of the Karen National Union, told The Irrawaddy that the group “will respond with all-out defense to stop the junta’s incursion.”

The military tensions began due to the junta troops’ incursions into territory in which the KNU/KNLA operates, said the vice chairman. He explained that various groups control different parts of Lay Kay Kaw, and permission is required to pass through certain areas.

Following the military engagement in Lay Kay Kaw, clashes were also reported in nearby areas in Myawaddy, Kawkareik and Kyar Inn Seik Gyi townships.

The junta claimed that brigades 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 of the KNLA offered training and 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.

Regime troops put their injured and dead soldiers on a truck in Lay Kay Kaw on Thursday after a clash with KNLA and PDF fighters.

This month, fighting has been frequent in areas in Mon and Karen states, and Tanintharyi Region, which host KNU brigades 1, 5, 6 and 4.

In the Brigade 5 area alone, the KNU’s Mutraw (Papun district) news outlet said on Thursday that 54 junta soldiers were killed and 39 injured during 111 clashes with KNLA troops between Dec. 1 and 16, in Papun, Karen State. The military retaliated with artillery and more than 100 shells struck civilian residences. The KNLA said it lost one soldier and six were injured.

Meanwhile, more than 2,500 locals are now seeking shelter in Thailand and about one third of them are children. Some 1,000 residents of Lay Kay Kaw are still internally displaced, according to relief workers.

Regarding the refugee situation, the NUG appealed to the Thai government “to allow the IDPs fleeing Lay Kay Kaw and seeking refuge to cross the border safely as soon as possible.”

The shadow government also urged the international community to provide urgent humanitarian and emergency assistance to the IDPs affected.

It also urged the international community “to strongly call for a de-escalation of violence.”

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