Myanmar Military Mobilizes Troops in Karen State

By The Irrawaddy 27 August 2021

Myanmar’s military regime and the Karen National Union (KNU) have both mobilized their troops in villages south of Kawkareik Township in Karen State as tensions between the two sides run high, according to the KNU.

On Tuesday, both sides clashed twice in Kawkareik Township after junta forces trespassed into KNU-controlled territory. The regime troops and the KNU soldiers both suffered two casualties each, said a KNU officer who requested anonymity.

Regime forces consist of soldiers from the 12th Military Operations Command (MOC) and Battalion 1021 of the Karen State Border Guard Force led by Captain Saw Belu. The KNU estimates their numbers at around 80 personnel.

The KNU side consists of Battalion 18 of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) – the armed wing of the KNU – civilian youths, and a Democratic Karen Buddhist Army splinter group led by Major Saw Kyaw Thet.

“Regime troops fired around 30 rounds of artillery on Tuesday. It is likely that the two who died on Tuesday were civilian youths fighting alongside the KNU. Although the regime is not sending jet fighters, it has been conducting aerial reconnaissance with drones,” said the KNU officer.

Around 200 residents from Kawthanaw village fled their homes following the fighting on Tuesday.

Military tensions are also running high between the KNLA’s Brigade 5 and junta troops in Papun District.

A regime jet fighter was seen on Wednesday and was likely engaged in aerial reconnaissance over Papun, the KNLA Brigade 5 spokesperson, Lieutenant Colonel Saw Kler Doh, told The Irrawaddy.

“There are four Myanmar military battalions under the 1st MOC that have long been based in Papun. Battalions under the 8th MOC are also active in lower Papun. To summarize, there are around 20 Myanmar military battalions currently active in the KNLA Brigade 5’s territory. Military tensions have been running high since the coup,” said Lt. Col. Saw Kler Doh.

The junta is also reportedly planning to retake control of Thaw Lae Hta, a base by the Salween River opposite Mae Hong Son Province in Thailand, which the KNLA captured from the regime in April.

There were a total of 81 clashes between regime troops and KNU forces between August 1 and 20, with 61 of those clashes involving the KNLA’s Brigade 5, according to the KNU’s information department.

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