Karenni fighters kill 15, capture five in raid on junta outpost in southern Shan State

Two local defence forces overran a military outpost in southern Shan State’s Nyaungshwe Township on Thursday, killing 15 troops and taking five more prisoner, according to an officer who took part in the assault.

The outpost, located in Hti Ri, a village near Nyaungshwe’s border with Pekhon Township, was shared by regime forces and members of the Pa-O National Army (PNA), an ethnic armed group allied with Myanmar’s military.

“It was completely overrun. We seized weapons and ammunition and then left, taking the captured soldiers with us by car,” said a deputy commander from the Pekhon People’s Defence Force (PDF), one of the groups involved in the attack.

Pekhon Township, which borders Kayah (Karenni) State, is one of the areas where ethnic Karenni resistance groups have been fighting Myanmar’s dictatorship since last year’s coup.

The Pekhon PDF, which is under the command of the shadow National Unity Government (NUG), carried out the attack with members of the Karenni Nationalities Defence Force’s (KNDF).

The two groups handed their prisoners over to representatives of the NUG defence ministry’s Shan-Kayah military affairs commission, said the Pekhon PDF deputy commander, adding that they are currently receiving treatment for their injuries.

Three of the wounded troops were said to be from the PNA, which is the armed wing of the Pa-O National Organisation (PNO). The group, led by military-aligned politician Aung Kham Hti, signed a ceasefire agreement with the former junta in 1991.

One of the junta casualties was reportedly a major. The regime’s Military Operations Command 7, based in the town of Pekhon, fired heavy artillery from 50km away and carried out two airstrikes in response to the attack. 

According to the Pekhon PDF officer, two members of the group were injured in the attack, including one whose condition was described as critical.

Maps show the location of a raid carried out by Karenni forces in Shan State’s Nyaungshwe Township on May 12 (Myanmar Now)

In a statement released on Thursday night, the Pekhon PDF said that it had seized mortars, grenade launchers, assault rifles, several types of bomb, and artillery shells in the raid. 

Hti Ri is a village of around 3,000 inhabitants. Residents say that troops stationed at the outpost, which was located at a local school, routinely harassed displaced locals and others from outside of the village.

“They asked for money from travellers and forced them to get down on their knees. That’s why we went there and attacked them,” the Pekhon PDF officer told Myanmar Now on Thursday.

Observers noted that the attack took the Karenni forces farther from their usual field of operations than any previous mission, and also put them closer to the junta’s administrative capital of Naypyitaw.

Fighting in and around Karenni State has been fierce over the past year, with new groups joining forces with established ethnic armed organisations (EAOs) such as the Karenni Army to resist the newly installed regime.

While some EAOs, such as the PNO, remain allied to the junta, many others have abandoned peace deals to resume fighting with a regime that is deeply unpopular among most citizens.

Headquartered in the Shan State capital Taunggyi, the PNO is said to be facing heavy criticism from some ethnic Pa-O civilians for its perceived allegiance to the regime.

Resistance groups such as the Pekhon PDF say they also regard the PNO as essentially indistinguishable from the junta.

“For us, Aung Kham Hti and the military are the same. There is no difference,” said the Pekhon PDF officer.

(Video- Supplied)

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