An entire Myanmar junta Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) involved in operations in Karen State’s Myawaddy Township disobeyed orders and refused to fight after taking heavy casualties, according to Myanmar military personnel who have defected to Karen resistance forces.
Private Zaw Htut from Infantry Battalion (IB) 8, who defected to the Karen National Union (KNU) at the frontline last week, said: “At Kyaw Wah Poe Hill, the entire LIB 102 handed over their arms to the tactical commander and said they would retreat. The tactical commander requested them not to retreat.”
Soldiers from LIB 102, who are normally based in Mon State’s Mottama Town, are among the military regime forces fighting the armed wings of the KNU and allied resistance forces along the Myawaddy-Waw Lay Road in the south of Myawaddy Township.
“We [troops from IB 8] dared not climb the hill [Kyaw Wah Poe Hill] and LIB 102 didn’t want to either. When [commanders] put pressure on us to advance, the deputy battalion commander of LIB 102, Major Aung Thu, laid down his weapons and said that he would go back,” said Zaw Htut.
LIB 102 was then withdrawn from combat duty and assigned as a tactical auxiliary column that stays with the tactical commander at the rear, added Zaw Htut.
IB 8 previously served as the tactical auxiliary column, which is mainly tasked with logistics, said Private Soe Aung who defected along with Zaw Htut.
Fierce fighting at a place known locally as ‘three-tier’ on the Myawaddy-Waw Lay Road has been ongoing since early July when the Cobra Column resistance group, which fights alongside Karen National Liberation Army-led resistance forces, ambushed six battalions of junta soldiers including LIB 102 and IB 8 travelling from Falu Village to Thay Baw Boe Village.
“We don’t want to fight anymore. That’s why we have come here [to the KNU],” said Zaw Htut.
The Irrawaddy could not independently verify reports of regime troops disobeying orders and refusing to fight. However dozens of junta soldiers from Division 44, which includes LIB 102 and IB 8, involved in the fighting at ‘three-tier’ have deserted because of heavy junta casualties, according to defectors.
Since clashes broke out in July, 14 junta soldiers have defected through the KNU. Other personnel have fled the Myanmar military on their own.
The high numbers of defections and casualties saw the Division 44 commander replaced at the end of August with the commander of Division 101, based in Pakokku.
Over the past two months, junta forces have only been able to seize one hill at ‘three-tier’. To reach Thay Baw Boe Village, regime forces have to capture six more hilltop bases occupied by resistance fighters.
On September 9, Cobra Column said that it captured six junta soldiers led by Captain Ye Yint Maung of LIB 2012 on the Myawaddy-Waw Lay Road along with weapons and ammunition.