An alliance of three ethnic armed groups claims that it has seized control of dozens of Myanmar military camps in northern Shan State over the weekend in a series of coordinated attacks that began last Friday.
Dubbed “Operation 1027” after the date (October 27) of its launch, the offensive has targeted junta positions in and around several major centres in northern Shan State, including Lashio, Chin Shwe Haw, Laukkai, Kunlong, and Hsenwi (Theinni).
The Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and the Arakan Army (AA)—the three members of the Brotherhood Alliance spearheading the mission—have also been joined by People’s Defence Force (PDF) battalions and smaller armed groups.
“All three members of the Brotherhood are involved in the operation,” said TNLA spokesperson Lt-Col Tar Aik Kyaw, speaking to Myanmar Now late Friday.
The operation began early Friday morning in Lashio Township, where the allied forces captured five junta outposts despite coming under heavy fire and multiple airstrikes, according to Tar Aik Kyaw, adding that 18 junta personnel were killed in the attacks and large quantities of weapons and ammunition were seized.
In Lashio, northern Shan State’s largest city, the groups launched drone attacks that killed five members of a pro-junta militia, according to sources.
In response, regime forces opened fire with heavy artillery. According to a man who lives in the city’s Ward 5, two elderly women died after a shell landed on their home.
“One of them died on the spot due to the sound of the blast. The other had a heart attack and died the following morning. We’re not afraid of drones, but we fear artillery shells fired at random by the military,” said the man.
Around 2,000 people from neighbouring villages have taken shelter at the city’s Mongsu Monastery, and Lashio Airport has been closed, according to a local woman.
On Saturday, the MNDAA said in a statement that it had overrun several junta outposts around Chin Shwe Haw and taken control of the town on the Chinese border about 200km northeast of Lashio.
It also said that it had captured eight soldiers and destroyed two tanks, adding that weapons and ammunition were also seized.
The group also claimed that it had captured several junta outposts in Kunlong and Lashio townships, but did not provide the exact locations.
In an interview with the BBC’s Burmese-language service, junta spokesperson Zaw Min Tun confirmed that Chin Shwe Haw was now under the control of the MNDAA.
The MNDAA said that it raided casinos and made several arrests related to online fraud operations based in Chin Shwe Haw. It also blocked the highway linking the town to Lashio to prevent the military from entering the area.
Residents of Hsenwi, a town about halfway between Lashio and Chin Shwe Haw, said that the group attacked several outposts and police stations there late Saturday night.
Speaking to Myanmar Now on Sunday, MNDAA spokesperson Li Kyar Win confirmed that the town was under its control and being used to launch attacks on nearby junta positions.
Hsenwi sits at the crossroads of the Lashio-Muse road and the Lashio-Chin Shwe Haw road, making it important for both border trade with China and the movement of troops.
The military reportedly fired at least 40 rounds of heavy artillery during the MNDAA’s attack on Hsenwi, forcing around 6,000 people living in the surrounding area to flee their homes.
MNDAA spokesperson Li Kya Win stated that the junta has so far lost 40 bases and hundreds of soldiers and pro-junta militiamen to Operation 1027.
Myanmar Now has been able to confirm that the allied forces have managed to seize at least 15 junta bases since Friday.
Road to Mandalay
Also on Sunday, the TNLA captured two junta outposts in Kyauk Kyan, a village near the town of Nawnghkio, about 150km southwest of Lashio near the border with Mandalay Region.
Both the TNLA and the Mandalay PDF released photos and video showing the bodies of six junta soldiers and a large haul of weapons seized in the raids.
Several members of the allied resistance forces were injured during an airstrike carried out early Sunday morning, according to the Mandalay PDF, which is under the command of the anti-regime National Unity Government.
A woman living in Kyauk Kyan told Myanmar Now that there are no longer any regime forces manning outposts around Nawnghkio.
“They’ve all run away. This morning, revolutionary forces took over the military camps and surrounded the town. I heard that in Kyauk Kyan, a junta battalion commander was killed,” she said, speaking on Sunday.
There were also reports of fighting on Sunday near Upper Nyaung Kone, a village in Mandalay Region’s Mogok Township occupied by the TNLA and the PDF, but details were not available at the time of reporting.