Karen forces capture seven junta soldiers near Lay Kay Kaw

Two days after the military council’s December 28 announcement that they had seized control of areas surrounding Lay Kay Kaw town in Karen State’s Myawaddy Township, forces belonging to the Karen National Union (KNU) managed to capture seven junta personnel. 

Among the troops were two officers, including a squadron commander, who were trying to relocate to military-controlled territory in a domestic vehicle, according to a December 30 report by the Karen State-based KIC news group citing the KNU’s Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA). 

They were reportedly captured near Yathaytgu village some five miles south of Lay Kay Kaw town, which the military had not, at the time of reporting, managed to take. 

KIC published photos of the captured junta soldiers, along with their confiscated weapons.

A member of the People’s Defence Force (PDF) who participated in battles in the area alongside the KNLA told Myanmar Now that a captain and a corporal were among those captured, and that they were apprehended while passing a KNLA checkpoint. 

“There were both junta personnel and weapons in the car. They said that they were transporting supplies and that they didn’t know about anything that was going on. They refused to answer any other questions,” the PDF member said. 

He added that the soldiers were from the Myawaddy-based Infantry Battalion (IB) 275. 

KNU spokesperson Padoh Saw Taw Nee confirmed to Myanmar Now that the organisation was holding the most recent group of detainees, but did not provide further information on their identities or ranks. 

“We will respect the human rights of the people we have captured. We have already trained our troops to uphold these rights,” he said on December 31. “We are constantly trying to be an army that upholds international standards. We will be acting humanely concerning the arrested soldiers, in accordance with international laws,” he added.

The December 30 capture of IB 275 troops by the KNLA is the second in recent weeks. On December 16, Karen forces also apprehended six soldiers from the battalion and two members of a Border Guard Force operating under the junta’s command in Lay Kay Kaw.

The military council has claimed in state-controlled media that around 25 battles have occurred in the Lay Kay Kaw area since December 15, and shared photos of the clash areas and seized weapons. They have also stated that their troops seized control of five villages—Htee Mei Wah Khee, Mei Htaw Tha Lay, Ingyin Myaing, Min Latpan and Hpalu—but not Lay Kay Kaw town itself. 

The junta has reportedly arrested several armed resistance fighters and has alleged that members of the KNU-PDF alliance were “fleeing in panic.” 

Padoh Saw Taw Nee of the KNU has dismissed the military’s statements as “full of lies.” 

Clashes were continuing to break out around Lay Kay Kaw at the time of reporting, he said, and were likely to continue as long as the junta kept sending reinforcement troops to the area. 

The PDF member who spoke to Myanmar Now confirmed that a clash with the military took place near Htee Mei Wah Khee last Thursday evening, initiated by some 100 soldiers who employed heavy weapons south of Lay Kay Kaw town. 

“They initiated the attack so we had to defend against them. The battle has been ongoing the whole day today,” he said on December 30. “They started marching towards us last night and started shooting in the early morning. They were continuously firing artillery shells, as well. Anyway, it’s been two days now since we’ve seen a helicopter.” 

According to the KNU, more than 15,000 people have been displaced across the border to Thailand by the military’s artillery fire. 

Battles in Lay Kay Kaw started when the military began seeking out and arresting parliamentarians and civil servants seeking refuge in the KNU-controlled area due their participation in the nationwide general strike as part of the Civil Disobedience Movement aimed at toppling the junta. 

Although the number of casualties is not known on either side, three locals have been killed by heavy weaponry fired by the coup regime’s armed forces. 

The military has announced that they will continue their crackdown in and around Lay Kay Kaw. 

As battles escalate across the country, including in Karen State, the military council issued a statement on December 30 extending its unilateral ceasefire declaration through February and ordering ethnic armed organisations to uphold the accord. 

Reports continue to surface implicating the junta’s own military columns in ground and airstrikes, the burning of villages and the extrajudicial killing of civilians in Magway and Sagaing regions, and in Karenni State. 

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