Military attacks villages as Karen, Mon forces seize police station in Kawkareik Township

The military responded with air and artillery strikes after a police station fell to the KNLA and its allies, including members of a new armed organisation that broke away from New Mon State Party’s armed wing earlier this year

Junta shelling killed at least four civilians, including two children, and destroyed scores of houses on the border between Karen and Mon states this week, according to local sources and anti-junta fighters. 

Two women in Kawt Pauk village—in Karen State’s Kawkareik Township less than a mile from the state boundary—and two children in Dhamma Tha village—located in Mon State’s Kyaikmayaw Township—were killed in the artillery strikes on Sunday, according to a statement by the Lion Battalion, a force commanded by the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA).

The junta’s shelling, which also caused major damage to at least two hundred civilian homes, was a response to attacks on a police station earlier the same day in Kawt Bein village, Kawkareik Township, some three miles northeast of Dhamma Tha. 

The Lion Battalion participated in the attack, along with other KNLA-commanded units and members of the armed wing of the Anti-Dictatorship New Mon State Party (NMSP-AD).

In February of this year, the NMSP-AD broke away from another ethnic political organisation—the New Mon State Party, one of the signatories of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement with the military in 2015. 

Since its formation last month, the NMSP-AD has been allied with the KNLA and other anti-junta forces. The KNLA, which was founded in 1947 and is Myanmar’s oldest surviving ethnic armed organisation, operates as the armed wing of the Karen National Union. 

The alliance of Karen and Mon fighters succeeded in capturing the Kawt Bein police station on Tuesday, two days after initiating the operation, according to Nai Banya Mon, a spokesperson for the NMSP-AD. 

The junta launched airstrikes during the attack in addition to firing heavy artillery, according to Nai Banya Mon. 

“A plane dropped bombs yesterday,” the NMSP-AD spokesperson said on Tuesday. “There were casualties in the area. The exact numbers of people injured and killed are not yet known.”

According to the Lion Battalion’s statement on the capture of the police station, junta personnel and their family members—numbering at least 23 people in total—surrendered to the KNLA and their allies, who were treating them humanely in accordance with international law concerning prisoners of war.

Junta personnel and their family members taken into custody at the Kawt Bein police station in Kawkareik Township, Karen State, seen with weapons seized from the station (Photo:Garuda Column)

Five junta personnel and two fighters on the anti-junta side were killed in the battle for the Kawt Bein police station, the Lion Battalion’s statement said. 

Myanmar Now was unable to verify the casualty figures independently. 

The junta has continued its attacks on civilian targets in the area, conducting air raids over An Ka Sin and Dhamma Tha villages in Kyaikmayaw Township on Thursday morning, according to a resident of the neighbouring Kawt Pa Laing village.

“At least ten houses in An Ka Sin village were damaged by junta airstrikes this morning, although there was no word of fighting near the village,” the Kawt Pa Laing villager said. 

Soon after the capture of Kawt Bein police station, a column of junta ground troops advanced into Ta Ra Nar village, located within territory controlled by the KNLA and its allies around three miles west of Dhamma Tha.

Smoke rises over Dhamma Tha after shelling by junta forces, which damaged scores of houses in the village (Photo: Htet Naing Lin)

Villagers forced to flee from Dhamma Tha by the junta’s bombing and shelling have sought shelter in neighbouring villages or in caves in the surrounding forest. Many of the displaced civilians are in need of food, one villager said. 

“At least three of my relatives’ houses burned down because of the shelling,” said a woman who recently fled Dhamma Tha. “We can’t return home, and we’ve run out of food.”

Thousands more civilians are still trapped in their villages due to junta roadblocks and remain vulnerable to further attacks. 

“We need to pass through Ta Ra Nar village to reach Mawlamyine or Hpa-an,” a Kawt Pa Laing villager said, referring to the Mon and Karen state capitals. 

“But they didn’t even let fire engines into Dhamma Tha,” the villager added, referring to junta ground troops in the area. “So, some fire trucks were stranded in Ta Ra Nar yesterday.” 

Fighting has been ongoing near the border between Karen and Mon states since December 2023, when the KNLA initiated an offensive operation in a bid to capture Kawkareik. 

The People’s Defence Forces, operating as the armed wing of the publicly mandated National Unity Government, participated in the KNLA-led assaults on junta bases in the area.

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