Ethnic armed group the Karenni Army (KA) fought an all-day battle on Monday with junta troops across four different locations in Loikaw Township, Kayah State.
At least seven junta soldiers died during the fighting with the KA, which is the armed wing of the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), claimed the KNPP’s Karenni Information Center (KnIC). However, The Irrawaddy could not independently verify the casualties.
The two sides clashed from 7.30am to 7pm near the villages of Dawtahe and Tee Lon to the east of Loilem Lay, and the military responded that night with artillery fire directed at the villages, KNPP Secretary-1 Khu Palu Reh told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday.
The KnIC posted on Monday evening that firefights between Karenni soldiers and the Myanmar military’s infantry battalion 530, under the control of Brigade 66, occurred near Dawtahe and Tee Lon villages around 8am, then near Wan Khaing and Kun Nar villages at around 1.40pm, near a cemetery to the east of Dawtahe at around 4.40pm and to the south of Dawtahe at about 6.11pm.
Fighting broke out after more than 50 junta troops arrived near Tee Lon village on early Monday morning, said a displaced person sheltering near the village. The KA opened fire on the regime forces, who responded with at least five artillery rounds, according to the displaced person.
Around 1,000 residents were forced to flee their homes in Tee Lon and nearby villages, said another displaced person.
Save Our People, a civil society organization helping displaced people in Loilem Lay, confirmed that villagers have fled into the forest on the border of Kayah and Shan states.
“People are already faced with the third wave of COVID-19, so the displacement has come as another blow to them. For the time being, they are sharing the food that they brought with them from home. But they might be short of food if they have to stay longer in the forest because of the fighting,” said a member of Save Our People.
Monday’s battle was the second time the KA and junta forces have clashed in July.
On July 2, the KA fought with the combined forces of the junta, the Karenni National People’s Liberation Front and the Pa-O National Organization/Pa-O National Army led by Aung Kham Hti in Loikaw.
The KA signed a truce with the previous military regime in March 1995. But the ceasefire collapsed three months later.
Peace talks resumed with U Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government in 2012, but the KNPP/KA has not yet signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement.
Since the junta’s Feb. 1 coup, the KNPP/KA has reportedly sheltered striking government employees, as well as providing military training to youths wishing to fight against military rule.
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