Thousands Flee as Myanmar Junta Artillery, Gunships Attack Villages in Karen State

By Hein Htoo Zan 25 January 2023

Thousands of residents have fled their homes as fighting intensifies between junta forces and the anti-regime Lion Battalion Commando under the ethnic Kawthoolei Army in Kawkareik Township, Karen State.

The junta has shelled and bombed villages around the battle zone close to Kyondoe town, according to the resistance groups and residents.

Thousands have fled Kann Ni, Mi Galon, Nyaung Yeik Thar and Kaw Bein villages where regime artillery and helicopter gunships have burned dozens of houses since Tuesday.

The junta’s Infantry Battalions 545 and 546 are bombarding the villages with artillery, causing casualties and damage to homes, residents said.

A camp in Kawkareik run by the Committee for Internally Displaced Karen People (CIDKP) is preparing to take in Kyondoe residents fleeing the town in search of shelter.

“We were dismayed to hear that they [regime troops] are shelling civilian areas. How would you feel if the residents were your family, your relatives, if the houses destroyed were your properties? It may be too far for them to reach us, but we are seeking other ways we can help,” said Naw Hpaw Lwal, head of the CIDPKP camp in Kawkareik.

Clashes began in Kyondoe on Friday before gradually intensifying and reaching a crescendo from Tuesday. They were still ongoing as of Wednesday afternoon, according to residents.

“We left the village yesterday and crossed the river to stay at a relative’s house in [Kyondoe] town. But junta troops warned Kyondoe residents that intense fighting could break out in the town at any time as well,” said a 43-year-old Karen man who fled Nyaung Yeik Thar village yesterday when it was shelled by regime forces.

At least 40 junta troops have been killed in the clashes so far, according to a statement issued by the Lion Battalion Commando on Wednesday.

The Irrawaddy could not verify that figure.

Residents and resistance groups said they are still unable to give civilian casualty figures.

“Intense clashes are still breaking out and the terrorist military council keeps shelling and bombing from Mi35 [helicopter gunships]. Some of our troops have also been injured,” said the Lion Battalion Commando in their statement.