Nearly 160 Myanmar junta soldiers were killed and another 102 were injured in fighting between the Myanmar military and the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) during the first two weeks of January. The KNLA is the armed wing of the country’s oldest revolutionary group, the Karen National Union (KNU).
The KNU said in a statement on Wednesday that from Jan. 1 to 15, 159 junta soldiers were killed in 181 clashes between junta troops and the combined forces of the KNLA and Karen National Defense Organization (KNDO) in areas controlled by the KNLA’s brigades 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6 in Mon State; Bago Region’s Nyaung Lay Pin; Tanintharyi Region; and Hpapun and Myawaddy districts in Karen State, respectively.
Thirteen ethnic fighters also lost their lives and 18 others were injured, it said.
The KNU recorded that more than 200 artillery shells fired by junta forces landed on civilian residences and farms, causing more than 50,000 locals in its administered areas to be displaced.
In addition to the artillery attacks, on seven occasions the junta conducted air raids in Hpapun district’s Dwelo town and Myawaddy district’s Lay Kay Kaw and Palu, killing seven civilians and injuring 19 people.
Padoh Saw Taw Nee, the KNU’s spokesman, said the fighting and the junta’s continuous artillery and aerial attacks were hampering the ability of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to return to their homes.
“As the fighting continues and with the junta’s frequent shelling, it is impossible for IDPs and our people seeking refuge in Thailand to return,” he said.
Military tensions remain high, the KNU leader told The Irrawaddy, as the fighting has raged on for more than a month between regime troops and the KNLA in Karen State, internally displacing tens of thousands of locals and sending thousands of other villagers and activists fleeing to Thailand.
More than 100,000 local people in the KNU-administered areas are in need of humanitarian assistance, the KNU said.
Junta air raids in Lay Kay Kaw town and Kawkarike Township in Myawaddy district in Karen State, and Loikaw, Demoso and Hpruso townships in Kayah State this month have made life even harder for IDPs there.
Regime airstrikes in Kayah State’s towns have also left more than half of the state’s 300,000 population internally displaced.
According to the UNHCR, as of Jan. 10 an estimated 377,800 people were internally displaced in Myanmar, including 200,400 IDPs in the southeast (Karen and Kayah states) and 157,500 in the northwest (Chin State and Sagaing Region).
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