Burma

Over 300 Myanmar Military Troops Killed in Karen State in May: KNU

By Nora Aung 7 June 2022

Some 303 junta troops and members of the pro-regime Border Guard Force (BGF) were killed in 448 clashes with ethnic Karen fighters in southeast Myanmar’s Karen State in May, taking the total death toll among junta forces in Karen State in the first five months of the year to about 1,800.

The Karen National Union (KNU) said in a statement on Sunday that its armed wings—the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and the Karen National Defense Organization (KNDO)—clashed with regime troops every day last month in the areas it controls in Karen State, adding that there were 448 clashes in total with 303 junta deaths and 215 injured. That means there were at least 14 clashes and around 10 regime fatalities every day in May.

There were 345 clashes in January with 399 regime deaths, 421 clashes in February with 311 regime deaths, 510 clashes in March with 429 regime deaths (making it the deadliest month) and 507 clashes with 356 regime deaths in April, according to the KNU’s monthly breakdown of the fighting.

Given those numbers, the total death toll among junta forces in Karen State in the first five months of the year now stands at 1,798.

Around seven KNLA and KNDO fighters were killed and 26 injured in May, said the KNU. Six civilians died in regime artillery strikes and air strikes, and another 21 were wounded. So, the total death toll among KNLA and KNDO fighters in the first five months of the year now stands at 67.

The Irrawaddy has not been able to independently verify the numbers.

Padoh Saw Taw Nee, the head of the KNU’s Foreign Affairs Department, attributed May’s decline in regime casualties to the fact that there was only one major clash during the month—a battle in which anti-regime forces seized an army camp.

A junta deputy commander was among five regime soldiers killed on May 19 when the KNLA and allied resistance forces seized the strategic Thay Baw Boe camp in Karen State from the Myanmar military.

Thay Baw Boe had been in the hands of the Myanmar military since the early 1990s. Located in a strategic position, it was used by the regime as a staging area from which to reinforce troops when fighting broke out.

Padoh Saw Taw Nee said the general rising trend in the death toll among regime troops over the past five months could be due to a combination of a lack of popular support for the Myanmar military, which limits its ability to gather information, and a decline in the capabilities and morale of junta forces.

“In previous decades it was very rare for the army to lose officers on the battlefield, but now even battalion commanders and deputy battalion commanders are being killed in action,” he said.

The KNU, Myanmar’s oldest revolutionary group, rejects the military regime, which seized power in a coup in February last year. Since then, its armed wings have been fighting in Karen State alongside civilian resistance groups that also oppose the junta.

Fighting between junta troops and the KNLA/KNDO has intensified since the junta’s Dec. 14 raid on Lay Kay Kaw Town in Karen’s Myawaddy Township, close to the border with Thailand. The regime claimed that democracy activists and People’s Defense Force fighters were sheltering in the town.

The KNU has accused regime forces of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, using civilians as human shields and raiding and looting villages.

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