KNU says it killed 271 in escalating clashes with junta forces in October 

Some 271 junta soldiers and allies died last month in clashes in southeastern Myanmar with the armed wing of the Karen National Union (KNU), which suffered just a handful of casualties while defending its territory, the rebel group has said.

The KNU clashed with junta-backed forces on 275 occasions throughout October despite the junta’s announcement of a ceasefire from October 1, said Colonel Saw Kler Doh, spokesperson for the KNU’s Brigade 5.

“We had to defend our territory according to how serious their attacks were,” he said. “There were several clashes but we can’t say all of them were very serious. There were multiple clashes taking place in different areas on a given day.”

Myanmar military battalions under the command of southeastern military headquarters were still operating in Brigade 5 territory, he added. 

Like newer armed groups across the country, the KNU has been using guerrilla-style tactics against the junta to minimise casualties on its side. 

A large number of the junta soldiers–95–were killed in Mon State’s Thaton, where another 80 were injured, a KNU statement on November 5 said. Ninety three died and 96 were injured in Karen State’s Hpapun district, the statement added. 

In territory controlled by Brigade 2, 30 junta soldiers died and nine were injured during the month. Clashes were less intense in Brigade 3 territory, where the KNU killed 17 soldiers and injured 30. Brigade 6, meanwhile, killed 36 junta soldiers and injured 51.

The death toll includes members of the junta-backed Border Guard Force. The junta has not commented on the clashes. 

Deaths on the military council’s side included a battalion commander, a company commander, a major, two captains and two lieutenants. Among a total of 266 who were injured were a deputy commander, a lieutenant colonel and a sergeant. 

The KNU said that two of its soldiers died and 20 were injured in the clashes. 

The fighting was far more intense than in previous months, with more clashes in October than there were in August and September combined, the KNU said.   

In late September the junta unilaterally declared a five-month “goodwill” ceasefire with ethnic armed groups. But many saw it as a clear attempt to relieve pressure on its overstretched military so it could focus on eradicating newly formed People’s Defence Forces (PDFs).  

In KNU territory, the ceasefire announcement appears to have been meaningless. 

“The military declared a ceasefire for five months but then they kept clashing with our units in our territories,” Saw Kler Doh said. “We would like to urge the people of Myanmar to see the inconsistency between their promises and their actual actions.”

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