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Myanmar Military Claims Control of Strategic Road in Karen State

War Against the Junta

Myanmar’s military regime has said that it has taken back control of the Myawaddy-Waw Lay road in Karen State near the border with Thailand. However, local resistance groups insist that junta forces don’t have complete control over the strategic road.

On Monday, the Myanmar military claimed to have recaptured areas including Falu and Thay Baw Boe along the Myawaddy-Waw Lay road that had been occupied by resistance forces since May.

People’s Defense Forces (PDF) led by the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), including drone units, have been fighting fierce battles with regime troops attempting to recapture the Thay Baw Boe camp since November 21. Resistance fighters were forced to retreat after junta forces employed helicopter gunships and a multiple rocket launcher system.

Their retreat means that junta soldiers now have direct access to Sone Se Myaing Village, the base of the pro-regime Democratic Karen Benevolent Army.

Commander Major Saw Win Myint of local PDF VENOM said: “They [regime forces] may be able to travel up to Sone Se Myaing. But it is impossible for them to have effective control of the road. It is not yet a military victory for them. We can fight back at any time. We have taken up arms because we don’t like this system and we will continue to fight. We will do what it takes to fight back.”

A commander from another Myawaddy Township PDF said: “The regime would say that just for propaganda purposes. It is not true that they now have total control of the area. Fighting will break out again. We have only moved out for fear that the villages in the area will be hurt a lot. Our core strength was not hurt.”

Nine junta soldiers were killed in the fighting between November 21 and 24, while three resistance fighters died and another eight were injured, according to local PDF Cobra Column.

Junta airstrikes have caused significant civilian casualties in the over one year of fighting between regime forces and resistance groups along the Myawaddy-Waw Lay road. Tens of thousands of residents have been displaced and forced to take refuge in the forest or to flee across the border to Thailand.

PDFs took control of the Myawaddy-Waw Lay road in May after seizing Thay Baw Boe camp.

Since June, junta battalions under the 44th Light Infantry Division and the Tanintharyi Region-based 13th Military Operations Command have carried out attacks along the road to retake their lost bases, supported by airstrikes.

“It is just a political ploy to announce that they [the regime] have taken control of the road. It is impossible for them to control the road permanently. We will fight them,” said VENOM’s Major Saw Win Myint.

KNLA units, PDFs and the Kaw Thoo Lei Army led by Major-General Saw Nerdah Mya are still active in areas along the Myawaddy-Waw Lay road and clashes could erupt at any time.