Battlefield Update: November 21

Myanmar Now offers a summary of its latest reports on clashes around the country: Karenni forces step up attacks in Loikaw, junta troops kill six men displaced by fighting in Mandalay’s Madaya Township, MNDAA seizes another border gate, and civilians and POWs killed by junta airstrikes in northern Shan State

Karenni (Kayah) State

A coalition of Karenni resistance forces has been carrying out attacks in downtown Loikaw since seizing control of junta bases on the outskirts of the town on November 20.

Capturing Loikaw, the state capital, is the stated mission of Operation 11.11, a new offensive launched by the Karenni forces on November 11 in a bid to bring their fight closer to the junta’s capital Naypyitaw, which is just 138 miles to the west.

Fighting has been fierce, with the junta using heavy artillery and airstrikes to fend off the offensive. Regime soldiers have been deployed at police stations throughout the town and have also been seen in banks, churches, and other tall buildings.

According to the Karenni Human Rights Group, a total of 53 civilians, including eight children, were killed by junta shelling and airstrikes in the first week of the offensive.

While thousands of residents have already fled, many are still trapped inside the town, including in Nant Kut, Naung Yar, Maing Lone, Law Da Ma, Kyithaya and Aye Ka 500 wards, according to local rescue teams.

Regime airstrikes have also been reported in areas outside of the combat zone. On the evening of November 19, two children were seriously injured by a bomb dropped on Nang Fa, a village in Demoso Township.

Junta air force pilot Maj. Khine Thant Moe (Supplied)

Also on November 19, Karenni anti-junta fighters captured Maj. Khine Thant Moe, 43, one of two junta pilots who ejected from a military aircraft that crashed in the state eight days earlier. His co-pilot, Lt. Zarni Maung, was reported as still missing.

The pair were flying a K-8 fighter jet that crashed during intense fighting on November 11, reportedly after being shot down by resistance forces.

Mandalay Region

Police prepare to arrest local residents protesting against a cement factory in the village of Aung Tha Pyay in Mandalay Region in 2018 (Supplied)

Junta troops detained and later killed six men in Madaya Township on November 18, according to local residents and defence teams.

The men were among thousands displaced by fighting between the military and a combined force of Ta’ang National Liberation Army and Mandalay People’s Defence Force troops that broke out about 30 miles north of Madaya on November 13.

It was unclear why junta soldiers stationed at a cement factory in the village of Aung Tha Pya arrested the men, whose bodies were found on the side of the factory’s service road later the same day.

Shan State

The MNDAA hands over suspected telecoms fraud gang members to Chinese officials at the Mongko border gate on November 18 (The Kokang)

The Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) seized control of another border gate on November 19. The Kyu Koke (Pang Hseng) gate is connected to the town of Wanding in China and is the third border gate to be captured by the MNDAA since the group and its allies launched Operation 1027 on October 27.

In a statement, the MNDAA said it used ground troops and drones to attack junta forces stationed at the Pan Hseng gate. Video posted on the group’s Facebook page shows it raising its flag over the Myanmar side of the gate, while the Chinese side was closed.

Earlier the same day, the MNDAA also attacked and captured a junta outpost near the village of Shwin Mar Lin. The group reported that the outpost fell to its troops at around 11am.

This came a day after the MNDAA handed over five Chinese nationals suspected of being members of a telecoms fraud gang to Chinese authorities at the Mongko border gate, which has also been under its control since earlier this month.

The MNDAA has yet to mount a full assault on Laukkai, the administrative centre of the Kokang Self-Administered Zone, but has the town surrounded and says it is “preparing to enter soon.”

Houses in the village of Myothit lie in ruins after being hit by junta airstrikes on November 19 (TNLA)

Four prisoners of war and two civilians, including a child, were killed by two separate junta airstrikes in northern Shan State on November 19, according to the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).

The POWs were being held at a police station seized by the group and its ally, the Mandalay People’s Defence Force, in Nawnghkio (Naungcho) Township when it was attacked at around 9pm, the TNLA said in a statement. At least 10 others were injured, it added.

An hour later, another airstrike hit Myothit, a village some 150 miles away in Nam Hseng Township, killing an adult and a child and injuring seven others, the TNLA said in another statement. Large numbers of villagers were also displaced, a resident of the area told Myanmar Now.

Airstrikes carried out at around the same time in Namkham Township injured two elderly men and destroyed a dozen houses in the village of Mongmeng, according to the TNLA.

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