Karen National Union ‘killed 267’ junta soldiers in December clashes

The Karen National Union (KNU) has said its armed forces killed 267 junta soldiers last month, and injured another 184, as intense fighting raged across areas under the rebel group’s control.

The casualties were inflicted during 310 clashes, with those killed including a battalion commander, a deputy battalion commander, 11 squadron commanders, 11 deputy squadron commanders, and one lieutenant, the KNU said in a statement. 

Padoh Saw Taw Nee, the KNU’s spokesperson, said the clashes occurred because the military trespassed on KNU territory. “Battles have been breaking out every day because the military has been increasing its activity and we have the right to defend ourselves,” he said.

The KNU also captured 13 junta troops, including a squadron officer, last month.

Eight soldiers from the KNU’s Karen National Liberation Army and Karen National Defence Organisation were killed last month while 17 were injured, the KNU’s statement said. 

An aerial view of Brigade 5 territory in Hpapun district seen in late November (KNU)

The low number of KNU casualties was due to its fighters’ in-depth knowledge of the local landscape and employment of guerrilla tactics, the group said. 

Many of the clashes–226–took place in territory controlled by the KNU’s Brigade 5 in Hpapun Township. There was also fighting in Brigade 6 territory in Dooplaya district and in Brigade 3 territory in Nyaunglebin district. 

The junta’s forces dropped bombs from helicopters during some of the battles, which have dislplaced over 50,000 locals.

Padoh Saw Taw Nee said that the military has been terrorizing civilians in the area.

“They’re just doing whatever they want. They torch villages for the second or third time if they don’t manage to burn them to ashes the first time,” he said. “Such incidents are happening not only in Karen State but all over the country.”

Junta artillery fire killed around 20 civilians last month, as well as several pet animals, the KNU said.  

The KNU signed the National Ceasefire Agreement in 2015 but there has been fighting in KNU-controlled areas since early 2018. The hostilities intensified drastically after last year’s February coup.

Last month there was fighting across all seven of the KNU’s major territories. In mid-December the military bombed Lay Kay Kaw Myothit, an area in Brigade 6 territory where many anti-coup activists fled to avoid arrest. 

The junta said in a statement during the clashes that it had seized weapons from resistance fighters along the Myawaddy-Yangon road and found that they came from Lay Kay Kaw Myothit. Fighting in the town started when junta forces went to arrest 21 people there, it added.

The Border Guard Force has been fighting alongside the military in recent months, while People’s Defence Forces have been fighting alongside the KNU.

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