Myanmar Junta’s Non-Stop Artillery Attacks Force Resistance Groups to Retreat
By The Irrawaddy 15 March 2022
Myanmar junta forces have retaken sections of the Moe Bye-Demoso Road in Kayah State, following continuous artillery and air strikes that forced local People’s Defense Forces (PDF) to retreat.
On Sunday, resistance fighters had to withdraw from Dawh Ngan Khar Ward, which is within walking distance of Demoso Town, because regime forces have superior weaponry, including the Multiple Rocket Launcher System (MRLS), the Demoso PDF spokesperson told The Irrawaddy.
Since February, PDFs have been forced to withdraw from Moe Bye, Nam Mae Khon and other towns along the Kayah-Shan border following junta attacks.
“Frankly speaking, we have almost run out of ammunition. So we have had to withdraw a little. They drop bombs from aircraft day and night and fire rockets. If we keep to our positions, houses and religious buildings will be hit by artillery. And we will be hit, too. So we withdrew,” said the Demoso PDF spokesperson.
Three junta columns, each comprising 200 troops equipped with armored vehicles and 120mm and 80mm grenade launchers and supported by air and artillery strikes, started raiding Moe Bye at the border of Kayah and Shan states on February 16, before storming into Kayah State via the Moe Bye-Demoso Road.
The Myanmar military is reportedly employing the MRLS in the Demoso fighting.
However, the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force and local PDFs are mounting fierce resistance. Both sides have suffered heavy casualties since last month, with nearly 100 junta soldiers and over 30 resistance fighters killed in clashes.
“The regime has attacked us with fighter jets and helicopters. And now they are also using MRLS. They are attacking us as if we were foreign enemies. This is civil war. But they are attacking as if it was a war between two countries,” the spokesperson for the Pekon PDF told The Irrawaddy.
Military regime forces are targeting Kayah State, where PDFs have been growing stronger and are in control of much of the state’s territory, because it believes that subjugating Kayah will discourage the resistance movement in other parts of the country, suggested the Pekon PDF spokesperson.
The intensifying military operation follows a visit to Kayah by deputy junta boss General Soe Win and home affairs minister Lieutenant General Soe Htut. They visited the Kayah capital Loikaw and the town of Bawlakhe in the first week of February.
Striking military captain Lin Htet Aung said: “The use of MRLS can cause serious damage. The military is providing heavy artillery support for its ground troops. They are using such weapons to inflict serious damage on those resisting them and those assisting the resistance groups.”
The Demoso PDF information officer said: “We will make some preparations, after which we will take those places back from the regime.”
Over 150,000 civilians have been displaced by the fighting in Kayah, and hundreds of houses and other buildings including churches have been destroyed or damaged by junta artillery strikes.
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