Myanmar military suffers further casualties in Lay Kay Kaw battles  

Clashes continued on Tuesday between the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and the Myanmar army near the town of Lay Kay Kaw in Karen State, with four casualties on the junta’s side, according to a statement released by the area’s Karen administration. 

The Dooplaya District information department for the KNLA’s Brigade 6—under the Karen National Union (KNU)—reported on Wednesday that a battle between the KNLA’s Battalion 27 and the military’s Infantry Battalion 207 and Light Infantry Division 44 had fought the day before in southern Myawaddy Township. 

According to the local KNU statement, the junta’s forces fired at least 30 artillery shells during the clash, destroying and damaging several homes in Lay Kay Kaw, which they proceeded to loot after the battle had ended. 

Although fighting escalated again around the town on Wednesday, further information about those clashes was not available at the time of reporting, according to KNU spokesperson Padoh Saw Taw Nee. 

“Battles are still breaking out. They haven’t fired any heavy weapons yet, I heard… or maybe they have already and the news from the frontlines hasn’t reached us yet,” he said.

Padoh Saw Taw Nee told Myanmar Now that on Monday the military suffered major casualties in fighting with the KNLA, as the Karen forces had the advantage of possessing better geographic knowledge of the area. 

“Over 100 junta soldiers have been killed or injured since the battles started last week,” he claimed. 

A sergeant who defected from the Myanmar army and has been fighting alongside the KNLA and the resistance group the People’s Defence Force (PDF) told Myanmar Now on Monday that around 80 junta soldiers had been killed in the fight to claim Lay Kay Kaw. Twelve of those casualties were in the town, 35 in the village of Htee Mei Wah Khee, 28 in Mei Htaw Tha Lay, and five in Bei Hee Ka Law, he said. 

Among those killed were eight officers, the sergeant claimed, including a battalion commander, and several corporals and lance corporals.

Myanmar Now remains unable to independently verify the number of casualties in the region. 

The KNLA also captured seven junta personnel including a squadron commander, as well as their weapons, on December 30. Nearly two weeks earlier, Karen forces also apprehended six soldiers from the battalion and two members of a Border Guard Force operating under the junta’s command in Lay Kay Kaw.

Since late December, the military has not released any statements on the situation in Lay Kay Kaw. 

According to the KNU, more than 15,000 people have been displaced to Thailand by the military’s artillery fire and airstrikes, which have been ongoing since mid-December. 

Battles in Lay Kay Kaw started when the military began seeking out and arresting parliamentarians and civil servants seeking refuge in the KNU-controlled area due their participation in the nationwide general strike as part of the Civil Disobedience Movement aimed at toppling the junta. 

On Tuesday, in Karen State’s Mutraw (Hpapun) District—the territory of the KNLA’s Brigade 5—the military dropped bombs from fighter jets, destroying multiple buildings, including a clinic, a Brigade 5 officer said. 

“Their bombs only hit the buildings, as no one stays in the village at night. We see planes hovering around every night, so we just decided to stay elsewhere,” Lt-Col Saw Kler Doh, the spokesperson for Brigade 5, told Myanmar Now later that day. 

Throughout the last year, the Myanmar army fired a total of 2,136 shells in the Brigade 5 area, killing 12 civilians and injuring 42, he said. 

More than 2,000 clashes took place between the KNLA and the military throughout 2021, killing around 1,300 junta troops, including 22 officers, and injuring 1,313 more. Some 30 KNLA soldiers were killed and 92 injured, according to a statement released by Brigade 5. 

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