Cobra Column fighters pose on July 13 with captured weapons and ammunition after a battle near Thone Htat Kwe in Karen State's Myawaddy Township. / Cobra Column
More than 2,500 Myanmar junta troops and members of the pro-regime Border Guard Force (BGF) – equivalent to one division of the Myanmar military – have been killed since January of this year in clashes with ethnic Karen fighters in Southeast Myanmar’s Karen State.
The Karen National Union (KNU) said in its monthly report released on Tuesday that its armed wings, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and the Karen National Defense Organization (KNDO), and allied resistance forces including Cobra Column clashed with junta troops more than eight times a day in July.
There were 259 clashes in July, with 386 junta and Border Guard Force deaths and 280 wounded, according to the KNU. 12 resistance fighters were killed and 26 injured in the clashes. However, The Irrawaddy has been unable to verify casualty numbers independently.
The KNU estimated that there were 399 regime deaths in January, 311 in February, 429 in March, 356 in April, 303 in May, 410 in June and 386 in July, a total of 2,594 junta forces killed in just seven months.
A Myanmar military division totals around 2,500 in the field, meaning that the junta has lost the equivalent of a division so far this year in Karen State fighting.
The fiercest clashes were at Thone Htat Kwe on the Myawaddy-Wa Lay road on July 12, when a military regime battalion commander and deputy battalion commander were killed and an entire column of No. 44 Light Infantry Division (LID) was either killed, wounded or fled without their weapons.
Resistance group Cobra Column released photos of seized weapons and No. 44 LID uniforms. RPG rockets, mines, grenades, 40mm artillery shells, bullets, guns and electronic jamming devices were among the captured equipment seen in the photos.
On July 8, Cobra Column killed five soldiers from No. 44 LID, including a captain, who were on their way to reinforce the strategic Ukayit Hta outpost.
Another five junta soldiers contacted Cobra Column and defected from the Myanmar military on July 11. The defectors stated in videos that they are in their late teens and early twenties and were previously based in Rakhine State.
Karen fighters captured the Maw Khee military camp in the Dooplaya territory of the KNLA’s Brigade 6 on March 22, and also seized the regime’s Thay Baw Boe camp on May 18.
In June, the KNDO and its allies seized Waw Lay police station, where junta troops were based. Five regime soldiers were reportedly captured and nine detained resistance fighters were freed.
Padoh Saw Taw Nee, the head of the KNU’s Foreign Affairs Department, told The Irrawaddy in June that the combat ability and will to win of junta soldiers has declined dramatically compared to previous decades of fighting with Myanmar military troops.
As its losses mount, the regime has aggressively escalated its violence against civilians across Karen State with indiscriminate air and artillery strikes, the torching of villages, the arbitrary killing of civilians and using them as human shields.
At least 19 civilians were killed in July and another 26 wounded, according to the KNU.
Around 200,000 displaced civilians in Karen State are in desperate need of emergency aid, the International Karen Organization said in July.