Dozens of junta soldiers killed in Karenni territory in recent weeks, resistance forces say

At least 70 junta troops were killed during fighting in ethnic Karenni territory between mid-July and the end of August, local resistance groups estimate, noting that the exact number of soldiers and police killed is not known. 

From July 12 until August 31, around 30 clashes took place in Bawlakhe, Hpruso, Demoso and Loikaw townships in Kayah State and in Pinlaung and Pekhon in southern Shan State—all areas with large ethnic Karenni populations. 

Spokespersons for the Karenni Defence Force (KNDF) and the Pekhon People’s Defence Force (PDF) told Myanmar Now that 70 casualties was a conservative guess and that the actual number of deaths on the junta’s side could be even higher. 

“Take last night’s battle [in Loikaw] for example. We could see them getting hit and some of them falling to their deaths but we can’t count the exact number of deaths as it’s really difficult,” a KNDF spokesperson told Myanmar Now on Wednesday.

During the six-week period in question, the local resistance forces claimed that one PDF member from southern Shan State had been killed and others injured, a figure they attributed to the clashes largely being PDF ambushes on the junta’s armed forces. 

The junta has not released any information regarding casualties suffered by its armed forces during fighting in Kayah and southern Shan States. 

There was lull in fighting in Karenni territory in the second half of June, but the Karenni Army (KA)—the armed wing of the Karenni National Progressive Party—and its local resistance force allies resumed fighting against the military in early July. Those forces include the KNDF, and multiple PDF groups, including those from Pekhon, Moebye and Demoso. 

“I think they’re attacking this region in an attempt to seize control over the KA territory,” the spokesperson for the KNDF said. 

On August 14, the KNDF stated that five troops from the military and six from the junta-allied Pa’O National Army fighting alongside the military died in a clash with Karenni joint forces in Pinlaung Township. 

“The number could be higher as we saw that many of our landmines were triggered,” the Pekhon PDF spokesperson speculated, adding that both the presence of the mines and the shrub-covered landscape made it dangerous for troops to venture into frontline territory after the battle to get a more accurate figure. 

Photos posted on social media by both PDFs and locals have shown junta troops using civilians as guides, porters, and human shields, being forced to walk on leashes during battles in Pekhon and Pinlaung. 

Throughout the month of August, the PDFs launched multiple attacks on junta infrastructure. This included a bombing of the Pekhon City Hall on August 2, which killed two police officers, and bombs planted at the Loikaw showroom and headquarters of military-backed telecommunications provider Mytel. A Mytel tower was also targeted in a blast on August 23 in Demoso. 

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