Analysis

Why Are More Resistance Attacks Due Across Myanmar in 2023?

By Nayt Thit ​​​​​​ 20 January 2023

Resistance attacks on regime targets in Myanmar’s southern, eastern and central regions are likely to increase in the coming months as the country’s oldest rebel group has vowed to step up operations while saying fighting is only one way to end military rule.

“We need to speed up in both military and political affairs,” KNU communications chief Padoh Saw Taw Nee told The Irrawaddy.

The KNU was founded in 1947 and its armed wings, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and Karen National Defense Organization, are fighting the junta in Karen and Mon states and Bago and Tanintharyi regions. They are the most powerful ethnic armed organizations near the Thai border.

Fighting has already increased this year.

The KNLA and allied resistance groups attacked Battalions 32, 283 and 284 near the town of Kyainseikgyi in Karen State on January 4, while the junta was marking Myanmar’s Independence Day.

KNLA and resistance allies in Karen State.

A battalion headquarters was seized and an infantry barracks, some officer’s quarters and vehicles were torched before junta airstrikes forced a retreat.

Karen forces claimed that 45 junta soldiers, including a battalion commander, were killed or wounded in the raids. Seven resistance troops were killed and 13 injured.

The KNLA and its allies raided Border Guard Force outposts along the Phayathonsu road in Kyainseikgyi Township in early January. Two outposts were seized, 90 regime soldiers died while nine resistance fighters were killed and 15 injured, the group said.

The attacks prompted junta shelling and airstrikes on civilian and resistance targets.

Since the 2021 coup and the subsequent killing of peaceful demonstrators nationwide, the KNU has trained and armed several thousand volunteers to fight the regime.

Its troops have also fought alongside newly formed resistance groups and coordinated with the civilian National Unity Government.

An estimated 5,500 regime soldiers have been killed and around 5,000 have been injured while hundreds of resistance fighters have died, Padoh Saw Taw Nee said.

Near-daily coordinated attacks by KNU forces and their resistance allies are reported across Karen, Mon, Bago and Tanintharyi.

“We need to uproot the military dictatorship not only in our state but across the country so we have plans to connect with other resistance groups,” Padoh Saw Taw Nee said.

In December the KNLA led attacked junta targets, including a district police office and an administrative office in Kawkareik. It claimed to have inflicted heavy casualties and seized weapons and ammunition.

Padoh Saw Taw Nee said: “There will be more urban attacks. We have said we will attack in various arenas.”

The KNU is also looking further afield.

The KNLA and Magwe resistance allies attacked a key junta airbase in Magwe Township using three improvised rockets.

Padoh Saw Taw Nee said at the time that three military aircraft were destroyed and at least eight regime troops killed.

Resistance fighters trained and assigned by the KNU are fighting with other groups across Magwe, Mandalay and Sagaing regions.

Meanwhile, the regime continues to kill civilians, loot and burn houses and attack civilian areas with shells and airstrikes and commit acts of sexual violence.

Since early January the regime has been escalating airstrikes in Sagaing Region and Chin, Kachin and Karen states, possibly in response to New Year’s speeches by ethnic armed organizations’ leaders vowing to uproot the dictatorship during 2023.

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