The military carried out an airstrike on Loikaw, Karenni (Kayah) State on Tuesday, dropping seven bombs from two fighter jets on the capital’s Maing Lone ward in just over 15 minutes before 6pm, locals said. All of the explosives detonated.
Located 120 miles from the junta capital of Naypyitaw, Loikaw Township has been the site of intensifying fighting between resistance forces and the Myanmar army since January 7.
On January 6, the military council cut off access to electricity in several wards, including Maing Lone; the entire township has been without power since January 9. Without electricity, the water supply and wifi services had also stopped, locals said.
“The primary problem that we have right now is the scarcity of the water supply. We no longer get water from the city development committee and the water purification factories have stopped operating, so we don’t have much drinking water left either,” a local man told Myanmar Now on the condition of anonymity.
He added that the only way to access the internet in Loikaw was through mobile data from military-operated telecommunications providers MPT and Mytel.
“The downtown area still has telephone and mobile internet services but there have been several glitches,” he explained.
Locals from Maing Lone, Pan Kan and Ywar Tan Shey wards started fleeing on January 8 as the military shelled the township from the ground and air amid the utilities shutdown.
Karenni media reports estimated on Tuesday that around 30,000 people—half of Loikaw’s population—had fled their homes. At the time of reporting, locals told Myanmar Now that the number who had left may have been as high as 90 percent of the town’s residents.
“Most of the people who remain in the township are those who stayed behind to protect their homes against thieves, those who are stranded in monasteries, those who could not afford to travel, and those who couldn’t find transportation,” the local man said.
Several empty homes Maing Lone ward had been broken into and looted, with thieves reportedly seen carrying stolen items away on 12-wheeled trucks.
“They even stole entire cars, motorcycles and electricity generators and refrigerators. We didn’t dare to go take pictures of them, so we have no photos,” an eyewitness told Myanmar Now.
The anti-junta People’s Defence Force chapter in Loikaw issued a statement on Tuesday warning that serious action would be taken against the thieves.
An officer from the second battalion of the Karenni Nationalities Defence Force (KNDF) said that the most recent clashes have been concentrated in Maing Lone and Daw Au Khu wards.
Battles have also continued to break out in the nearby townships of Demoso and Shadaw this week, with the military deploying both jets and heavy artillery.
According to a KNDF report, around 40 junta soldiers, three members of the allied resistance forces, and six civilians had been killed in the battles in Loikaw and Demoso on January 7 and 10.
The number of people killed on Tuesday could not be confirmed at the time of reporting.
Those who remain in Loikaw are concerned that in the coming days, basic necessities like rice and oil will no longer be available.
“We can see that the flow of commodities has been cut off and that the basic commodities have become very scarce,” the first local said.
It could not be confirmed whether junta restrictions had officially been implemented on the importing of goods into the township, but few trucks dare to deliver supplies amid the ongoing fighting.
“The shop owners closed all of their shops and fled. There are only two to three shops that remain open now. Even so, I think they, too, are going to flee after they’re all sold out. Because all the shops are closed, commodity trucks don’t come into the town anymore,” another local woman said.
She added that displaced persons in neighbouring townships also rely on these shops to meet their basic needs, and the shortages would be felt by communities fleeing the fighting throughout the region.