Battlefield update: November 20

Myanmar Now consolidates our reports on clashes between the junta and resistance forces nationwide: the military launches a fatal airstrike in Chin State, burns down entire town wards in Sagaing, and carries out dozens of arrests in Rakhine

Chin State

Eleven people, including eight children, were killed in a junta airstrike on November 15 in Wai Lu village, some 40 miles south of the town of Matupi in Chin State, according to the local anti-junta authorities. 

The Matupi Township People’s Administration Team stated that the victims ranged in age from five to 65 years old.

Salai Terah, a project manager for the local Chin Human Rights Organisation, said that the attack was carried out by two Myanmar military aircraft and noted that there had been no recent clashes in the area with resistance forces.

Wai Lu has a population of around 5,000.

Magway Region

Resistance forces attack the Zee Pyar police station in Pauk Township, Magway Region on November 15 (Myaing Township PDF)

Resistance forces based in Pauk, Myaing and Pakokku townships in Magway Region carried out a raid on the Zee Pyar village police station 10 miles north of the town of Pauk on November 15. 

At least 30 regime soldiers and 21 guerrilla fighters were reportedly killed in the clash. Four of the slain resistance members were from the Myaing People’s Defence Force (PDF) and 17 were from other Pauk-based local defence groups. Only the bodies of three of the casualties had been recovered at the time of reporting. 

Around 60 troops—including 20 Myanmar army soldiers and 40 members of the military-backed Pyu Saw Htee militia—maintained control of the village despite the fierce battle, in which the regime fired heavy weapons at the site from a Pauk Township domestic arms manufacturing facility: the No. 24 factory under the junta’s defence ministry. Military helicopters also attacked the location three times from the air.

Rakhine State

A fishery in Thandwe Township, Rakhine State, is seen on May 2, 2016 (EPA)

More than 50 civilians, many of whom work as fishermen, were arrested by the junta over three days last week in Rakhine State’s coastal Thandwe Township, according to residents. 

Locals said that five people were detained on November 13, nine on November 14, and 40 on November 15. They were taken to a nearby junta base, where they were still believed to be held at the time of reporting. 

Some 15 army trucks and three junta vessels were also said to be stationed around 10 miles outside of Thandwe town, suggesting increased militarisation of the area. 

Rakhine State-based media has reported civilian arrests by the regime in the townships of Sittwe, Kyaukphyu, and Taungup as well as in Thandwe. 

The recent arrests follow the launch of Operation 1027 on October 27 in northern Shan State by the Brotherhood Alliance of ethnic armed organisations, which includes the Arakan Army (AA), as well as the TNLA and MNDAA. The AA, which operates in Rakhine State, also attacked two military border guard stations in the region on November 13, after which battles with the junta escalated.

On November 18, the AA announced that it would be seeking retribution against the military for “kill[ing] civilians and committ[ing] war crimes” in the town of Pauktaw over which the junta regained control one day earlier. The move occurred two days after the AA had raided and seized Pauktaw, but was then forced to withdraw.

Sagaing Region

A devastating fire engulfs homes in Htigyaing on November 12 (Supplied)

Junta forces have carried out nearly a week of bombardment and arson attacks in Htigyaing, pushing back anti-junta forces even as the National Unity Government has begun setting up a parallel civilian administration in Khampat town, less than 130 miles away. 

Some 80 soldiers stationed in Kyar Tat village, Salingyi Township, also abandoned their base located at the junction between the roads to Pale, Salingyi, Yesagyo and Myaing townships on November 15 after being targeted in several attacks by the resistance.

According to a fighter in the Htigyaing PDF, about half of the township’s administrative centre has been reduced to ashes due to ongoing junta arson attacks since November 14. The date coincided with a reduced presence by anti-junta forces in the town after several civilian casualties were caused by junta airstrikes attempting to push the groups out. 

Wards 3 and 4 of Htigyaing, the most densely populated of the town’s five sections, have almost completely been destroyed by fire and about half of Ward 2 was also said to be in ruins. 

Nearly all of Htigyaing’s residents have fled since renewed fighting broke out on November 6. Junta administrators and civil servants have sought shelter in the local police station.

The junta has fired heavy weapons at the town some 40 times since then, as well as attacking the surrounding villages with fighter jets, according to the Htigyaing PDF. More than 20 civilians have been killed, as well as eight members of the resistance. 

Although the Myanmar army suffered casualties during the week’s fighting, the number of deaths was not known at the time of reporting. 

In contrast, in Khampat—which was captured by anti-junta guerrilla forces on November 7—most residents have returned to their homes.The NUG’s district-level People’s Administration Team and defence group stated that they had begun preparations to start operating a civilian-led government in the town. 

Khampat residents are currently electing new ward administrators and the Tamu District People’s Administration Team, where Khampat is located, also stated that they were going to form an administrative team for the town.

“Khampat has nine major wards, and we have already elected administrators for five of them. Four are left,” a member of the district team said on the condition of anonymity, noting that his team was “taking the initiative” for implementing the process.

Shan State

 Two TNLA soldiers stand guard in Namhkam town in northern Shan State on November 10 (Myat Pan / Myanmar Now)

The Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) has blockaded the last junta camp in Mantong, northern Shan State, in an attempt to seize control of the town. 

In early November, the TNLA captured the police station, junta offices, and local militia outposts in Mantong, located east of the Shweli River on the China-Myanmar border in the Ta’ang (Palaung) Self-Administered Zone. 

An information officer for the TNLA told Myanmar Now on November 14 that the last step in claiming the town would be to overrun the base of Infantry Battalion 130, just east of Mantong, where some 100 soldiers are believed to be stationed. 

The Myanmar army has been firing heavy weapons from the base, forcing residents of Mantong to flee into the surrounding mountains. 

Phone lines to the town have been cut, and locals are bracing for a fuel shortage. 

TNLA ally the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) previously blew up the Hsenwi bridge on the road connecting the two major northern Shan State towns of Lashio and Muse, forcing residents to seek alternative routes through the area. The TNLA has not blocked the entrances and exits to Mantong town.

On November 16, the TNLA captured a militia outpost and an army base in neighbouring Namkham Township. Fighting also reportedly took place with the junta’s forces in Muse and Kyaukme townships.

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