KNLA, resistance groups assault junta offices in Kawkareik

Karen fighters torched the police special branch and military security offices in the Karen State town on the same day that anti-regime ethnic armed groups launched a sweeping offensive in northern Shan State

Military targets in Kawkareik, Karen State came under attack by the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and allied anti-junta groups on Friday morning, local sources said. 

Locals heard gunfire in the town of Kawkareik’s Yone Kone, Kya Inn Kone and Tada U wards starting from around 5am, and KNLA fighters attacked military-run offices on the north side of town at around 10am, a Kawkareik resident told Myanmar Now. 

“For now, it’s quiet. But I’m hearing the sound of artillery sometimes. There is no traffic on the streets in the town now,” he said.

Resistance forces set fire to the local branch offices of the junta police force’s Special Intelligence Department and the Office of the Chief of Military Security Affairs, which is in Kawkareik’s urban area and also serves as a base for Infantry Battalion 97. 

Some Kawkareik residents took shelter at nearby monasteries while others took cover under their own houses during the fighting, locals said.

Kawkareik Township is located on the western side of the Dawna Hills next to the Asia Highway, a vital route for border trade between Thailand and Myanmar. It is adjacent to Myawaddy Township, a hub for cross-border commerce located opposite the city of Mae Sot in Tak Province, Thailand. 

According to Maung Maung Swe, deputy minister of defence for the publicly mandated shadow National Unity Government (NUG), the KNLA fighters were joined by allied resistance forces—including the People’s Defense Forces (PDF) commanded by the NUG—in the Friday morning attack on military targets in Kawkareik.  

“According to our information, the police’s Special Intelligence Department office and the Military Security Affairs office run by the terrorist military council were burned down. Right now, there is ongoing fighting all over the township,” the NUG deputy minister told Myanmar Now. 

On Tuesday, KNLA and allied forces killed six junta soldiers in an attack on junta troops from Light Infantry Battalion 207 near Sein Kone village outside of Kawkareik, including regimental commander Lt.-Col. Nyein Chan Ko Ko, according to Maung Maung Swe. 

Following his death, the junta reportedly made heavy use of airstrikes and artillery fire to provide cover for the trapped column of troops and allow them to withdraw. 

Clashes between the army and KNLA-led anti-junta forces then continued within the territory of the KNLA’s Brigade 6, south of Kawkareik. The territory—designated as Dooplaya District by the KNLA’s political wing, the Karen National Union—includes parts of northern Mon State as well as parts of Kawkareik and other townships in southern Karen State. 

The Myanmar army, currently fighting on several fronts throughout the country, only has the capacity to defend its positions in KNLA territory rather than take new ground. Its bases in the border area have also come under attack by the KNLA.

In September, KNLA-led fighters stormed an army hill base in Kyainseikgyi Township in the Thai-Myanmar border, capturing a large stockpile of weapons and ammunition.

Fighting in northern Shan State

On the same morning as the KNLA attacks in Kawkareik, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA)—a Kokang ethnic armed group—captured the town of Chin Shwe Haw and initiated an assault on the town of Laukkai, the capital of Kokang Self-Administered Zone in northern Shan State. 

The Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) also captured an outpost manned by junta-trained militia members and an army outpost in the town of Namhkam, northern Shan State. 

The TNLA, MNDAA, and the Arakan Army—a Rakhine ethnic armed group—are the three member groups of the Brotherhood Alliance, which operates mainly in Shan State. 

After a shell struck the Ho Peik toll gate near the north exit from Lashio, most roads into and out of Lashio— except for the Lashio-Namtu road—were shut down, a Lashio resident said. 

According to a local woman in her 30s, bus services in Laukkai have also been suspended due to fighting on the road between Lashio and the Kokang Self-Administered Zone. 

Traffic is also blocked at the Par Hsin Kyaw toll gate outside of Laukkai, with vehicles unable to move forward or return to town, the woman said.

“Even the toll gates have been destroyed, so there is no way to go anywhere. Nothing has happened in Laukkai yet, but there’s been fighting in Ho Peik and Theinni,” she said, referring to the town of Hsenwi by its Burmese name. 

The local woman added that she had heard gunshots near Laukkai in the early morning on Friday, but there had been no fighting near the town since noon.

Local news outlets reported that MNDAA forces had attacked all junta army outposts in Chin Shwe Haw, located on the border with China, and occupied the town. Residents of Chin Shwe Haw have reportedly left town, intending to seek refuge from the fighting in the Wa Self-Administered Division, but some remained unable to leave.

Junta spokesperson Maj.-Gen. Zaw Min Tun told a regime-run news outlet on Friday afternoon that the army had fought with the TNLA and MNDAA near Chin Shwe Haw and Lashio, and that junta forces had retaken Chin Shwe Haw from the MNDAA.

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