The Myanmar military withdrew from bases in the Karen State town of Kawkareik on Saturday following an attack one day earlier by allied resistance forces under the Karen National Union (KNU).
A township administration office and the district police station were targeted by the coalition in the October 21 assault, in which the Karen forces reportedly killed several junta soldiers and police. The military retaliated by launching airstrikes on the area.
With tension high around the town, the junta’s forces subsequently abandoned its bases in the southern Kawkareik villages of Ka Maing Kone, Kawt Nwet and Ta Tan Ku villages, according to Lt-Col Saw Yan Naing, an officer in the KNU’s armed wing, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA).
The officer said that the junta forces from the three bases, which were set up six months ago in communities along the Asia Highway, had “settled back inside the town.”
Lt-Col Saw Yan Naing noted that the KNLA had issued an order months earlier calling on the military to abandon the bases, after they breached a directive from the Karen forces warning them not to expand their territory and cross the Asia Highway, which passes the southern edge of Kawkareik town and runs to Myawaddy on the Thai border.
“They went past the southern part of the highway and began to set up stations in the aforementioned three villages, causing the locals in the area to be displaced for over six months now,” he explained. “Our district office issued an order for them to withdraw from said villages and they didn’t, resulting in battles. They have finally abandoned those stations now though.”
The Asia Highway reopened on Sunday morning after being blocked for five days, the officer added, noting that his forces had positioned themselves on either side of the road.
More than 1,000 vehicles trapped by last week’s fighting were able to resume their journeys, according to a Myawaddy local who works in border trade.
The military’s aerial bombing of Kawkareik on October 21 killed four civilians and injured more than 20, including six children and two novice monks, according to the KNU.
At the time of reporting, Myanmar Now was unable to independently verify the figures, or the number of casualties on the junta’s side.