Pro-democracy militias burn down junta offices in Kayin State

Fighting between junta troops and one of Myanmar’s most powerful ethnic armies continued Tuesday after local guerilla groups burned down an administrative office in Kayin state, residents and fighters told RFA.

A local People’s Defense Force raided the office in Payathonzu town near the Thai border on Monday night. They set fire to four buildings housing military intelligence offices, along with general administration, immigration and land registry departments.

When the military sent in reinforcements, Karen National Liberation Army troops and a Kawthoolei Army special commando unit joined the battle, a Kawthoolei soldier told RFA on condition of anonymity.

One local, who also declined to be named for safety reasons, said some residents fled the town as fighting continued Tuesday morning.

“Joint forces attacked and both sides are still fighting,” he said. “The casualties are still not known, but the fighting intensified this morning. Almost all the offices were destroyed. The fighting mainly erupted because of anti-regime civil disobedience movement issues.”

Another witness told RFA he could hear gunfire all through the night.

“As soon as I heard the sound I looked outside. I saw the flames rising up. I could also hear the sound of explosions,” he said.

A member of a local charity said two civilians were injured but she did not know the details.

“They were hit by shrapnel but I don’t know where. I heard that an elderly man and one from the betel shop were hit,” she said. “I saw the burnt [offices], but I didn't see fire trucks … People are moving around cautiously and there are only a few on the street.”

Neither side has released a statement about any casualties and RFA has not been able to independently confirm whether anyone was killed.

The Karen National Liberation Army has refused to hold talks with the junta, saying there can be no negotiations unless they include the National Unity Government, ousted by the military nearly two years ago.

The KNLA and its political wing the Karen National Union have also said they oppose the junta’s plan to carry out a census and hold national elections this year.

Fighting between the military, local People’s Defense Forces and ethnic Karen armies has forced more than 97,000 people to flee their homes in Kayin State, according to data compiled between Feb. 1, 2021, and Jan. 20, 2023, by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA).

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