Five soldiers killed by own artillery in Moebye

Local defence teams claimed that five junta soldiers were killed by friendly fire in Moebye, southwestern Shan State, on Wednesday after the military council sent reinforcements to the town.

Junta troops numbering around 100 advanced from Loikaw, Karenni State into southwestern Shan State on Monday, arriving two days later at a pagoda at the top of Set Taw Yar Hill in Moebye, Pekhon Township. Around 30 to 50 soldiers have been stationed in the area since September of last year.

Shortly afterwards, an alliance of resistance forces including the Moebye People’s Defence Force (PDF), Karenni Nationalities Defence Force (KNDF), and Loikaw PDF assaulted the military forces occupying the hill, according to Kyauk Saung, battalion commander of the Moebye PDF. 

Junta forces based in  Loikaw and Pekhon, as well as Light Infantry Battalion 422 based in Moebye about 4.5km from Set Taw Yar Hill, used heavy artillery during the fighting, according to the Moebye PDF commander. This resulted in five fatalities on their own side when they fired shells in the direction of the hill, where the battle was ongoing, he claimed.

The military council has not released any statement regarding the reported deaths of five soldiers by their own artillery fire.

Kyauk Saung speculated that fighting could intensify in the coming days.

“The junta forces retreated a bit today. We are trying to keep a foothold for as long as possible but serious battles could resume at any time,” he said on Thursday.  

“Junta forces are still present on the Set Taw Yar Hill, so the villagers from that hill don’t dare stay there. They’re also stopping pedestrians and forcing them to buy things for them, as well as taking their phones and money,” he added.

Myanmar Now tried to reach the military council’s information department for comment regarding these claims but did not receive a response. 

The troops’ position at the pagoda hill is on a section of the Yangon-Loikaw road connecting Moebye with the village of Pekin in Pekhon Township. The Moebye PDF announced in a statement on Tuesday that they closed off this part of the road to civilian traffic.

However, an employee of a company operating buses on that road said they were allowed to use it two days later.

“The  road was initially blocked but they reopened it under more favourable conditions. Our vehicles from Yangon are able to pass through again,” she said.

The bus company employee added that it had become common for their vehicles to pull over and stop where they were when battles broke out, then resume their trips when the fighting abated. 

Junta forces have frequently clashed with local defence teams in their efforts to gain control over Moebye. The town has strategic importance due to its location on the road connecting Naypyitaw, the national capital, with Karenni State’s Loikaw and Demoso townships. 

Control of Moebye Township is currently divided between military and resistance forces, according to the Moebye PDF battalion commander. Resistance forces have been unable to gain more ground in the area chiefly because of the junta’s access to heavy weapons and military aircraft.

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