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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Radio Free Asia

Fighting ramps up in Myanmar's Shan, Kayah states, leaving scores dead

2022.02.25 -- Fighting between Myanmar junta troops and local militias has intensified along the border of Shan and Kayah states, leaving at least 10 civilians and 80 junta soldiers dead, sources in the region say.

Around 20 People's Defense Force fighters have also been killed in the clashes, sources said.

Local aid groups and other sources say the fighting began on Feb. 16 in the town of Mobye in southern Shan state and has spread to Nang Mae Khon in Kayah state, forcing more than 30,000 people to flee their homes.

Clashes continued Friday morning, a spokesman for the Karenni National Defense Force (KNDF) told RFA's Myanmar Service.

"The fighting has been intense for eight days in a row, and has gotten worse in recent days," the spokesman for the armed ethnic group said, speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons. "And as junta forces are now using airstrikes, the destruction is even greater.

"More than 70 to 80 enemy soldiers have been killed in the fighting, while we suffered about 20 losses," the spokesman added.

At least 10 civilians have been killed in heavy shelling by junta forces near Mobye since fighting began, the KNDF said on Feb. 22, with other local sources saying that junta helicopters and fighter jets have carried out daily bombing raids in the area since Feb. 17.

A People's Defense Force fighter in Kayah state's Demawso township told RFA that the junta's Light Infantry Battalion 427 in Demawso, Light Infantry Battalion 422 in Mobye, and Infantry Battalion 250 in Loikaw township were using heavy artillery fire against civilian targets.

"It's really too cruel to attack innocent civilians when there aren't any battles happening nearby," he said. "We are suffering heavy casualties."

Two doctors working in Myanmar's Civil Disobedience Movement, Maung Nwae Le and U Alexander, were killed Thursday evening by junta airstrikes that also destroyed six houses in Dawkamee village, the Demawso People's Defense Force said in a statement.

Villagers remaining in Demawso's Nang Mae Khon have meanwhile fled their area to escape heavy fighting, one refugee who had earlier escaped to southern Shan state said.

"They said earlier that they would wait to see how the situation developed, but then were not able to escape to the north when things got worse. So last night, when the planes attacked Nang Mae Khon, they fled to the west, moving all night.

"It's not so easy to come here, especially in large numbers," she said.

Destroying property, spreading fear

Ko Banyar, director of the Karenni Human Rights Group, said that 25 civilians had been injured in clashes during the recent nine days of fighting. Myanmar junta soldiers now see all villagers as enemies, he said.

"They are deliberately destroying people's property," he said. "Wari Suplai and Wi The Ku villages are still burning, so the military is deliberately trying to endanger people's lives if they return to their homes.

"Cutting off health and food supplies also threatens people's lives, and we can see that the military is spreading fear among the locals. All in all, the junta is systematically violating human rights," he said.

More than 10,000 refugees have fled Daw Bu Ku and Thay Sulie villages since Thursday's bombing of Nang Mae Khon, the Karenni Human Rights Group said.

Reached for comment, deputy information minister, Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun, said that no junta soldiers had died in the recent fighting, but some had been injured.

"In the Mobye area, around 150 to 200 [Karenni National Progressive Party] militants set fire to the Loi Lem Lay police station yesterday, and they then attacked security forces in seven places near Mobye Nang Mae Khon. Some of our soldiers were wounded, but as far as I know no one was killed," he said.

In nine days of fighting, more than 20,000 people from Mobye and 10,000 from Nang Mae Khon have fled their homes, bringing the total number of war refugees in Kayah state to nearly 200,000, according to the Karenni Human Rights Group.

Reported by RFA's Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Richard Finney.

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