Anti-junta forces in central Myanmar attacked a 50-vehicle military convoy Tuesday, killing more than 40 soldiers and injuring 30 others, members of the attacking militia told RFA.
The Yaw Defense Force (YDF), one of many People’s Defense Force (PDF) militia groups formed to resist the military after it ousted the country’s democratically elected government on Feb. 1, told RFA they used remote-controlled landmines in their attack along the Gangaw-Kalay Highway, which connects Magway with the western Chin state and northern Sagaing region.
“The Gangaw-Kalay Highway is a strategic route, and it would be difficult for the military if this road were cut off… They would have to send food and supplies by air,” a member of the YDF told RFA’s Myanmar Service Wednesday.
“When the rains are gone, they won’t be able to use the waterways because the rivers will be dried up. So they need this road to go up into the mountains of Chin state,” the YDF member said.
RFA was not able to independently verify the exact number of casualties in the attack.
Junta spokesperson Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun confirmed to RFA that a convoy was attacked with landmines near Gangaw township but said that only two vehicles had been damaged and a few soldiers injured.
Nearby residents told RFA that fighting between the military and the YDF and its allies had intensified in recent days.
Sources close to the military last week told RFA that the junta had been sending armored vehicles, artillery, and attack helicopters to its forces in Gagnaw in hopes of gaining a tactical advantage.
Though the Gangaw-Kalay Highway is normally very busy, a resident of Gangaw told RFA on condition of anonymity that fighting had caused traffic there to come to a complete standstill.
“We heard they are conducting a military operation along the Gangaw-Kalay Road… The pressure is on the PDFs because of the large presence of troops in the area, and there are frequent clashes. Travelling in the area is difficult now as cars are not allowed to leave the city,” the Gangaw resident said.
She said that the local flow of goods had been disrupted and commodity prices had skyrocketed. Living conditions had also deteriorated and businesses had been shuttered, she added.
Fighting has also intensified in neighboring Kalay in the Sagaing region.
The Kalay PDF said nine government soldiers died on October 4 when militias attacked a convoy of 10 military vehicles that had stopped near a crossing at the Pan Mon Chaung Bridge to search for mines.
A Kalay resident who spoke on condition of anonymity said junta troops have now set up checkpoints and sentry posts all along Gangaw-Kalay Road, and that more are arriving in large numbers from the Magway region, forcing residents to flee the heavy fighting.
"A lot of military vehicles are coming towards Gangaw. The whole population is holding its breath and waiting, as the junta appears to be set to take total control of the Gangaw-Kalay region,” the Kalay resident said.
“People are all scared and worried about the increasing military presence in our area. The situation is very bad. If they stay here, it will be very difficult for us," the resident said.
Residents in the Sagaing and Magway regions and Chin State are panicking as the military has shut down internet access in the area and is sending in massive reinforcements. They fear a major operation is looming over the horizon, and local PDF groups are also preparing for impending battles, sources said.
Military spokesman Maj.Gen. Zaw Min Tun confirmed the military was taking full control of the area due to the rising number of military casualties.
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