Junta soldiers implicated in Christmas Eve massacre occupy town of Moebye 

The Myanmar military has sent between 200 and 300 soldiers and two tanks to occupy Moebye in southern Shan State since Tuesday morning, leading to clashes with People’s Defence Force (PDF) fighters in the town.

The tanks were seen leaving Loikaw Township in neighbouring Karenni State and were later spotted parked at the Moebye base of Light Infantry Battalion 422, the Moebye PDF said. 

Soldiers from Light Infantry Division 66, a notorious unit involved in the deadly 2007 crackdowns against anti-military protesters in Yangon, were seen stationed all over Moebye, the group added. 

On Christmas Eve, LID 66 soldiers are believed to have massacred dozens of civilians in Karenni State’s Hpruso Township, burning some of them alive, according to a doctor who examined the victims’ remains. The junta denies responsibility. 

Moebye is four hours from Naypyitaw and about a 30 minute drive from both Loikaw and Demoso, another township in Karenni that has seen fierce armed resistance to military rule.

At around 9am on Wednesday, a shootout began between the LID 66 troops in Moebye and PDF fighters. It is unclear if anyone was injured. 

“We are having a break right now but it’s safe to assume that it will resume very soon,” a Moebye PDF officer said on Wednesday afternoon. 

A house that was hit by a shell fired by the military in Moebye on Wednesday (Supplied)

The junta troops used heavy weaponry during one battle in Paw Oo Ward 1 but the PDF has not been able to assess the damage, he added.  

An aid worker from the Moebye Rescue Team (MBRT) said that some residents have fled the town since the junta troops arrived but most have stayed put. 

“Many are deciding to not flee as it’s become so hard to keep on moving from one place to another,” said the aid worker. “So only a handful of locals are fleeing the town. Many have sought refuge at the monasteries however.”

The junta troops stationed themselves in a school in Paw Oo Ward 1, a youth hostel in Zay Kone Ward, near a bridge in Pway Kone Ward 1, and near another bridge by the Balu stream, the PDF officer said.   

This is the first time since violence broke out in the area in the wake of last year’s coup that the military has sent a large number of reinforcements to urban Moebye, he added. 

“They haven’t tried to actually station themselves in Moebye before,” he said. 

On their way to Moebye on Tuesday, the troops ransacked houses in War Yi Kaw Khu village, at the border between Shan and Karenni, and arrested a woman who was refuelling her motorcycle at a petrol station along the Loikaw-Moebye road, he added.  

The military is occupying Moebye to establish a new route to Demoso from Loikaw, the officer speculated. While there is a more direct route to Demoso, it requires junta troops to travel along an area with a heavy presence of PDF fighters.  

“They can’t initiate an assault in those areas since the PDF is strong there,” the officer said. “That could be why they are planning to do it from Moebye. We don’t know anything for sure yet though.” 

Recruits from Battalion 5 of the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force aim their guns during training near Demoso on December 18 (Myanmar Now)

Airstrikes against IDPs

On January 16, the military launched airstrikes and fired shells at a neighbourhood where displaced people had been sheltering in Karenni’s Nan Mei Khon Township, which sits along the road leading south from Moebye to Demoso. 

Most of the displaced people had already fled the area before the airstrike, but three boys aged 14, 16 and 17 stayed behind and were killed in the attack, according to the Karenni State Police, a law enforcement group made up of police officers who defected from the junta. 

The PDF has launched fewer attacks against junta targets in Loikaw since late January because of a shortage of weapons and ammunition, its fighters have said, but the junta has nonetheless been unable to take control of the area. 

In early February, Vice Senior General Soe Win visited Karenni, and the junta appeared to restrict access to phone and internet services to coincide with his trip. 

An officer from the PDF in Pekhon, north of Moebye, said resistance fighters there were preparing to fight junta troops and would offer help to their comrades. 

“Battles are going to break out any moment now and we are making preparations,” he said. “We will also be supporting the Moebye PDF.” 

More than half of Karenni’s population of 300,000 have been displaced since the coup by the junta’s forces, who have committed widespread atrocities against civilians as part of a campaign of terror aimed at stamping out resistance to military rule. 

Junta officials could not be reached for comment. 


Related Articles

Back to top button


In order to ensure our long-term sustainability, Myanmar Now will limit access to some of its English-language content to paid subscribers from October 20, 2023.