Over 160 junta soldiers were killed in the first two weeks of April in over 200 clashes with ethnic Karen fighters in Karen State, southeast Myanmar, according to the Karen National Union (KNU).
From April 1 to April 15, 81 junta soldiers were killed in 174 clashes with KNU Brigade 5 in Papun District, while another 81 junta soldiers were killed in 55 clashes with KNU Brigade 6 in Kawkareik Township, according to KNU information departments in Papun and Kawkareik.
The KNU is Myanmar’s oldest revolutionary group. Its armed wings are the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and the Karen National Defence Organization (KNDO). Both reject the military regime and the coup it staged in February last year. Since then, they have been fighting alongside local civilian resistance groups who also oppose the junta.
One the KNU side, one fighter died and seven others were injured in the Papun clashes, while 12 fighters died and 17 others were injured in Kawkareik, according to a KNU statement released on Tuesday.
Padoh Saw Taw Nee, the head of the KNU’s Foreign Affairs Department, said that the ethnic armed organization has verified the number of casualties and clashes.
“Figures officially released by our branches can be confirmed. The number of casualties is noteworthy. There were never as frequent clashes as are happening now in Karen State. And it has become obvious that junta troops [are collapsing] since the coup. It is obvious that the number of junta soldiers who surrendered or who were killed or injured is significantly on the increase,” he said.
People’s Defense Forces under the parallel National Unity Government and splinter groups from the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army are fighting alongside the KNU, while the Karen Border Guard Force is allied to the regime.
Two civilians from Papun and four civilians from Kawkareik were killed by junta artillery strikes during the April 1-15 clashes, said the KNU.
Fighting between regime forces and the KNU has intensified since the regime raided the town of Lay Kay Kaw in Karen State’s Myawaddy Township on December 14.
March was the deadliest month for junta forces in Karen State so far this year, with 429 deaths reported in a total of 510 clashes. Numbers released by the KNU show there were 435 clashes in January with 313 regime deaths and 421 clashes in February with 311 regime deaths.
The total number of junta soldiers killed in Karen State since the start of the year now stands at 1,215. The Irrawaddy has not been able to verify the KNU’s figures independently.
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