Myanmar Junta Weakening: Karen Rebels

By The Irrawaddy 24 May 2022

The Karen National Union (KNU) says Myanmar’s military has been seriously depleted, saying the regime has not tried to retake a strategic camp seized on the Thai border last week.

The Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and allied resistance forces seized the strategic camp in Karen State on May 18, despite facing heavy airstrikes.

The battle for Thay Baw Boe camp in Myawaddy Township lasted eight hours and a junta battalion in Falu, about 25km away, did not send reinforcements.

“In the past, they would send reinforcements but on May 18 fighting, junta soldiers sat on a pagoda and did nothing, as if they had nothing to do with their colleagues being attacked,” said an official from the KNU, the political wing of the KNLA.

Thay Baw Boe had been held by the military since the early 1990s and used as a staging area to reinforce combat troops fighting rebels near the Thai border.

The strategically important camp was normally led by a battalion commander and held around 30 to 50 soldiers.

The KNU said five junta soldiers, including a deputy battalion commander, were killed and seven captured along with weapons.

KNLA commanders said there have been no reinforcements in the area since early March.

“If only 30 to 40 soldiers are available, they cannot be sent because of the risk of an ambush,” said a KNLA Brigade 6 member.

Frontline junta battalions have slumped to just 60 to 70 soldiers or less than a full-strength company, according to defectors.

“Though the numbers are low, they still have to carry the standard amount of weapons and ammunition so they are prone to ambushes,” said a private who defected to KNLA Brigade 6 in April.

A KNLA Brigade 6 commander claimed that many junta soldiers have been killed in regime airstrikes.

“In some cases, junta aircraft bombed regime camps and there were many casualties,” he said. The Irrawaddy could not independently confirm his claims.

The occupation of Thay Baw Boe means the KNLA now controls the Myawaddy-Falu-Waw Lay road.

Around 1,000 troops from Karen State Border Guard Force, which is fighting alongside the regime in Karen State, have recently retreated from KNLA territory.

BGF leader Colonel Saw Chit Thu claimed his troops have been withdrawn to take a rest but analysts say the BGF troops were called back to guard Myawaddy amid fears the KNLA may seize the border town.