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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Radio Free Asia

Five Military Troops, Two Militia Members Killed in Latest Clashes in Myanmar's Kayah State

2021-05-25 -- At least five military troops and two members of a local militia were killed during intense fighting in Myanmar's Kayah state on Tuesday that destroyed a government tank, left residents critically injured, and added to tens of thousands of people displaced by violence since the weekend.

The clashes erupted as members of the People's Defense Force (PDF) militia—mostly armed with homemade weapons—stormed a police station in Kayah's Demawso township before dawn, prompting troops to respond with heavy arms.

A tank from nearby Ngwedaung was destroyed by the PDF slightly south of that township after being deployed by the military to help defend the Demawso Police Station, a militia member told RFA's Myanmar Service.

"Around 100 troops accompanied by two tanks were sent as reinforcements to Demawso this morning after our forces stormed the police station," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.

"Some of our men, together with some of the armed ethnic fighters from near Ngwedaung intercepted them. Five of their soldiers were killed in the clash and two of our men gave up their lives to destroy one of the tanks. Three PDF members are still missing."

The PDF member said that three men who fled Ngwedaung during the fighting in that area were killed and several injured. The military was unable to seize the Demawso Police Station, he said, despite its lopsided advantage in men and firepower.

RFA was not able to independently verify the number of casualties resulting from Tuesday's fighting.

Tens of thousands have fled

According to a resident of Demawso, at least eight civilians were critically injured after a military based in nearby Loikaw township fired artillery on the area.

"I saw two houses destroyed by the shells, said to be from 120-millimeter guns," she said.

"People in Demawso don't know where to go. I think the fighting will now spread to Loikaw. Here, eight people have been seriously wounded."

RFA was unable to reach Deputy Information Minister of the Military Council General Zaw Min Tun for comment on Tuesday's clashes.

Fighting between the military—which seized control of Myanmar's democratically elected government in a Feb. 1 coup—and the PDF erupted on May 22 in Demawso's Dawt Ngan Kha village, and aid groups estimate that some 30,000 people have been displaced by the violence over the past four days.

"They are made up of the entire population of Demawso and about half of the population of Loikaw," said one aid worker from Demawso.

"All the elderly, young women and children of Demawso have fled their homes. There are currently at least 30,000 refugees. Some are staying with their relatives. Some do not have food and shelter. We started building the tents just two days ago."

Tuesday's clashes come a day after the PDF joined with armed ethnic groups to capture the Moebye Police Station in southern Shan state's Phekone township, which borders Loikaw.

The Kayah people, a mostly Buddhist subgroup of the Karenni, are the majority of the 285,000 people of Kayah state, which borders northeastern Thailand.

Widespread backlash

In a suburb Myanmar's largest city, Yangon, a parcel bomb at a wedding ceremony killed three people, including the bride, a witness said.

The bomb was among the gifts at the wedding ceremony held in an apartment Thingangyun Township.

"I heard a loud bang. Two brothers from that house were said to be informants for USDP party and the 969 Movement," the witness said, referring to the military proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party and a Buddhist nationalist group, both junta supporters.

"Now three are dead. The bride lost one arm in the blast and died at the hospital. Many people were injured," added the witness.

The military has faced substantial opposition to its seizure of power, which it has attempted to justify through allegations of widespread voter fraud in the country's November 2020 general election. So far, it has failed to produce evidence to back up the claims, and troops have killed at least 700 civilians in a series of bloody crackdowns on largescale anti-coup protests across the nation.

In one example of how unpopular the regime has become, the renowned Mandalay Myoma Culture Troupe—the country's longest-running classical orchestra—has faced intense criticism after it played for Senior General Min Aung Hlaing during the May 17 opening ceremony of Yadanarbon Hall in Mandalay, presided over by the military leader's son.

Only around two-thirds of the musicians and one vocalist agreed to join the ceremony, after several refused the invitation, but members of its executive committee acknowledged that the performance had caused the 96-year-old troupe to "lose the support of the city." Members of the public have called on the orchestra's management to resign and apologize for their actions.

Reported by RFA's Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

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