Some 44 regime troops have been killed after three days of clashes between the junta’s armed forces and People’s Defence Forces (PDFs) in two eastern Sagaing Region townships, according to members of the local resistance.
The PDF has claimed that the casualties occurred between June 24 and 26 in Htigyaing and Katha townships, and locals have said that members of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) have been providing support to the local resistance. Myanmar Now was unable to verify these claims of collaboration.
The Htigyaing Township PDF announced on Monday that on Saturday evening they had attacked a military convoy on the Maw Kun Taung Yoe Road, resulting in the deaths of 14 army personnel and injuries to seven more.
A Htigyaing local said it marked the first battle in the township since the February 1 coup.
“There were no troops based in Htigyaing. They only came here for security reasons. They had been coming and going, staying only for two to three days, for quite a while now,” the local said.
The PDF attack on their convoy, he speculated, “was a consequence of [the regime’s forces] raiding the villages.”
“Before this battle, a young man from Htigyaing was murdered which led to quite a strong hatred towards the military,” he continued.
The Katha PDF stated that a battle broke out in their township, nearly 100km northeast of Htigyaing, between them and the military near Shwe Kyaung Kone village in Moetar village tract, on June 24. There were reportedly 30 casualties on the side of the military.
Although there have been multiple local reports of the KIA joining the battles as a PDF ally, the Kachin Independence Organisation’s (KIO) information officer Col Naw Bu told Myanmar Now that the Kachin forces gave their troops no such order but that it was possible that their soldiers decided individually to join.
“It must have been locals and nearby [Kachin] troops [involved in the clash]. That is why there has been no official announcement made on behalf of the KIO,” he said.
Because the KIA has been known to operate in the region, many Kachin locals believe that the KIA has been involved in the recent clashes.
“They used to operate in Katha and Banmauk back in the day. The KIA just resumed operating there again now,” a local observer in Myitkyina, the Kachin State capital, told Myanmar Now. “I’m not entirely sure if the KIA has already reached Htigyaing. There’s a KIA base in Katha, so it’s certain that they were involved in the fight there.”
The KIA condemned the military’s violence against civilians after the February 1 coup and has been engaged in its own battles against the regime’s armed forces in Kachin and northern Shan states. These have included KIA assaults on military bases and outposts and on police stations.
Prior to the clashes in late June, a battle also broke out between the Katha PDF and the military and police on May 30, allegedly resulting in eight casualties and 10 soldiers injured on the side of the junta. Five KPDF members were also reportedly killed in the fight.
Nineteen people have been detained by the regime and five killed in Katha Township since the coup as of Monday.
The junta’s armed forces have largely been focusing their attacks in Sagaing on anti-coup resistance strongholds in Yinmarbin, Kani, Monywa and Taze townships, which locals say has resulted in resistance growing in other areas of the region.