Fighting intensifies between Karen rebels and junta forces in Kayin state, Myanmar — H Talk Asia

Fighting between junta forces and combined forces of the Karen National Liberation Army continued Thursday in Kayin state, a day after the rebel group attacked three military camps in Kyainseikgyi township, Karen Liberation Army officials and local residents said.

A member of the Karen National Liberation Army, who wished to remain anonymous for security reasons, told RFA that the KNLA and local People’s Defense Forces launched simultaneous attacks on the 32nd, 283rd and 284th Infantry Battalions stationed in and around the town of Kyainseikgyi on Wednesday.

“The attack began around 5.30am yesterday morning. All three battalions were attacked. We retreated after the fighting around 9 a.m.,” he said.

“Military helicopters opened fire about 10 times on the areas where fighting broke out. We received a lot of weapons and ammunition from the army in Wednesday’s battle. There were casualties on both sides, but it’s difficult to give an exact number because we’re fighting as one. Details will be published by the responsible organizations.”

Liberation Army sources told the RFA that three of their fighters were killed and six injured during Wednesday’s battle. The junta announced no casualties on its side, but KNLA forces told the RFA they killed nearly 50 soldiers and captured others.

They said Thiri Wai, the wife of Lt. Col. Kyaw Zin Oo, commander of Infantry Battalion 32, was among those arrested. RFA could not confirm the claim.

On Thursday morning, junta forces retaliated with airstrikes and bombing raids on Liberation Army positions. Military attack helicopters dropped 17 bombs on the administration office of Karen National Union Brigade 6 in Dooplaya district, KNLA forces said. The amount of damage is still unknown.

The Karen National Union is the political wing of the KNLA and represents the ethnic Karen people of Myanmar.

Saw Khin Maung Myint, junta spokesman and Kayin state economy minister, declined to answer RFA questions about the conflict, saying it was a security issue.

The junta released a statement on Thursday saying that KNLA joint forces attacked their military camps on Wednesday but the army was able to fight back and the KNLA had withdrawn with many casualties.

On December 16, 2022, a week-long urban battle between junta forces and the KNLA broke out in the city of Kawkareik, Kayin state, leaving three civilians dead and more than a thousand forced to flee.

Translated by RFA Burmese. Written in English by Mike Firn.