Thousands Flee Homes as Myanmar Junta Steps Up Attacks

By The Irrawaddy 3 November 2021

Nearly 4,000 villagers in Pekon Township, southern Shan State, are fleeing their homes following fresh fighting between the junta and Karenni forces in Kayah and Shan states that left five soldiers dead.

The junta is continuously facing fierce attacks from People Defense Forces (PDFs) and some ethnic armed forces across the country, except in Rakhine State. Fighting in Kayah State has spilled across the border into Pekon in Shan State, where most of the villagers are ethnically Kayah.

Junta troops launched offensives in Pekon and eastern Mobye this week and an estimated 500 soldiers are now stationed in Pekon, said the Karenni Nationalities Defence Forces (KNDF).

The combined forces of the KNDF, PDF and Karenni Army, the armed wing of the Karenni National Progressive Party, clashed with junta troops advancing from Pekon and Lwel Whel and Pinlon villages.

A KNDF spokesman said five junta soldiers died and four resistance fighters suffered minor injuries during the shootouts on Tuesday.

The junta on Wednesday burned houses in Lwel Whel village in Pekon Township where hundreds of junta troops were deployed.

“Fire was visible from other villages but we dare not return to see how many houses have been destroyed,” said a villager.

He said nearly 4,000 residents of Lwel Whel and other villages have fled their homes.

Junta atrocities have increased, including raids, arrests, the arbitrary killing of civilians, bombardment and burning down houses, especially in Magwe and Sagaing regions and Chin, Shan and Kayah states.

The junta recently burned down more than 160 houses in Thantlang, Chin State, according to residents.

The civilian National Unity Government said on Oct. 30 that since the February 1 coup, around 267 houses in Loikaw and Demoso townships in Kayah State and 58 houses in Pekon Township were burned down. It said the junta attacks are increasing.

In Sagaing Region, some 30 soldiers died in a mine attack by the PDF in the wee hours of Wednesday, according to Tigyaing resistance forces. A PDF member died and three others were injured, the Tigyaing Revolution said.

A member of the group told The Irrawaddy the township’s resistance has been performing guerrilla-style attacks against the junta in the area.

He said the junta has deployed more troops with daily clashes since Oct. 30.

“We were managed to stop them deploying from our town to other townships like Kawlin and some 150-200 soldiers have been killed in our mine attacks in recent days,” he said on Wednesday.

The Irrawaddy was unable to independently confirm the reports.

Military tensions have been intense in Katha, Kawlin and Pale townships in Sagaing Region this week. Pale PDF said one soldier died in its mine attacks on military vehicles and motorcycles on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, junta forces shot and killed four civilians from a village in Kawlin Township while deploying to Kantbalu, a Kawlin resident told The Irrawaddy.

He said soldiers were deployed in large numbers in Kawlin and at least eight military trucks were heading to Wuntho and Pinlebu and clashes were heard in Katha.

By Tuesday, junta forces killed 1,229 civilians and detained 9,626 people since the Feb. 1 coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, an advocacy group that records deaths and arrests.

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