Regime troops are advancing toward the resistance-controlled gold production hub of Nant Nan village in Homalin after a week of fierce fighting in the Sagaing Region township.
The advance comes after five days of clashes in Shwe Pyi Aye, triggered when local People’s Defense Forces (PDFs) from Homalin attacked the town on February 1.
The PDFs shot down an Mi-17 helicopter on February 3 and killed at least 20 Myanmar junta troops in the battles, according to a statement issued by the civilian National Unity Government.
The resistance groups took control of Shwe Pyi Aye, before the military retaliated with a combined assault by air, land and water. The PDFs retreated from the town on February 5, according to Homalin residents.
On Wednesday, a force of around 400 junta soldiers, allied Shanni Nationalities Army troops and Pyu Saw Htee militias advanced on Nant Nan village, which has been controlled by the PDFs for the last five months, according to a source close to PDF Khamti District Battalion 1-Homalin.
Nant Nan village is famous for Shan ethnic gold production but is also located on the Homalin-Paungbyin road, making it a strategic transport hub that is prized by the regime.
“We heard that Min Aung Hlaing ordered the military to take Nant Nan by any means after SNA officials at the Naga New Year festival asked him to seize the village,” the Khamti District Battalion 1-Homalin source told The Irrawaddy.
He added that fierce fighting is expected in the next few days.
Regime troops in Shwe Pyi Aye killed three male civilians and arrested others within two days of taking control, Homalin residents said. Around 2,000 residents have fled their homes in the town.
“The residents don’t dare to return to their homes because of the junta’s atrocities,” one local told The Irrawaddy.
Shwe Pyi Aye is a new town founded by General Tha Aye, a member of the previous regime’s State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) and a chief minister of Sagaing Region during SPDC rule from 1997 to 2011.