Karen National Unity (KNU) rebel group records 133 clashes in Mutraw area last month
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AA) – Some 65 soldiers in Myanmar were killed and 101 injured through July amid clashes with an armed ethnic group in the Mutraw district of Karen state, according to local media reports.
The Karen National Union (KNU) said there had been a total of 133 gun battles between its armed wing, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and military forces in the area last month, with those injured including a battalion commander, according to the daily Myanmar Now.
Thoolei News, a media outlet under the group’s information department, said the commander was wounded during one of the 29 clashes fought during the third week of July.
The KNU said the military council had ordered artillery fire on civilian areas 25 times, while four civilians had triggered landmine explosions, the daily reported.
Citing Saw Kler Doh, the spokesman for a KNLA brigade active in Mutraw, the news outlet said two personnel from the military-allied Border Guard Forces had surrendered to the group in July and that four light arms had been confiscated on that occasion, it added.
Meanwhile, three KNLA troops were reportedly injured, according to Myanmar Now.
The group claimed that the troops had stolen livestock from locals, including buffaloes and cows, said the report.
Authorities in the military junta ruling the country had yet to respond to the group’s accusations until the news was published.
In addition to the fighting with the KNLA, the military council’s armed forces have been engaged in battles with the Kachin Independence Army in the northern Kachin and northeastern Shan states, the report said.
The Karenni Army in the eastern Kayah (Karenni) state and the Chin National Front in the northwestern Chin state have also fought alongside other local resistance forces against the junta, it said.
The junta announced on July 31 that it would cease all “military activities” for two months through August and September, though the sincerity of this declaration has been questioned by the People’s Defense Forces (PDF), an armed organization formed by anti-junta demonstrators on May 5, as well as by ethnic armed groups, according to the report.
The military has on previous occasions been known to declare temporary unilateral cease-fires in its fights against ethnic armed organizations, then repeatedly break them, it added.
Myanmar’s military ousted President Win Myint and State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi on Feb. 1, detaining them along with other senior members of the pre-coup ruling National League for Democracy party, citing “election fraud.”
The takeover has led to months of demonstrations and a mass civil disobedience movement, which has been met with brutal force. The death toll has risen to 946, while 5,495 people remain detained, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a local monitoring group.