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Myanmar rebels mop up after victory in Myawaddy

In the west, the Arakan Army has urged locals to leave Sittwe ahead of ‘decisive battles’
A general view of Myanmar's Myawaddy town is seen from across the Thai side in Mae Sot district on April 11. Myanmar junta troops have withdrawn from their positions in this major trade hub near the Thai border following days of clashes in a further blow to the embattled military.

A general view of Myanmar's Myawaddy town is seen from across the Thai side in Mae Sot district on April 11. Myanmar junta troops have withdrawn from their positions in this major trade hub near the Thai border following days of clashes in a further blow to the embattled military. (Photo: Manan Vatsyayana / AFP)

Published: April 12, 2024 09:01 AM GMT
Updated: April 12, 2024 11:09 AM GMT

Anti-regime militias aligned with the Karen National Union (KNU) were restoring order, distributing rations and mopping up on April 12 after taking full control of the strategic city of Myawaddy in Myanmar’s southeast on the Thai frontier.

Reports said food rations captured by forces aligned with the KNU — its military wing the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and the People’s Defence Force (PDF) — were being distributed in camps housing internally displaced people.

Banks and most businesses were still closed, and internet and phone lines remained cut in Myawaddy, which has a population of about 200,00 people and shares an international border with Mae Sot, just across the Moei River in Thailand.

The KNLA were also redeploying captured weapons, including heavy artillery, while the fate of about 100 soldiers loyal to the junta remained undecided with Thailand yet to rule on their asylum requests.

“There have not been any more bombings, but we have also heard that military jets were being diverted to other parts of the country,” a PDF source said. “Friendship Bridge No 1 is open across the Moei River and the border. The second bridge, where the military soldiers are, is still closed.”

The PDF — the armed wing of the opposition National Unity Government (NUG) — and the KNLA entered Myawaddy a week ago but fierce fighting on the city’s western flank continued until the military’s Battalion 275 finally surrendered early on April 11.

The PDF source said the local Border Guard Force (BGF), which specializes in border control and counterinsurgency, was also complying with the KNU-PDF but there was a high degree of mistrust with the BGF given its long association with the junta.

“The BGF controls a lot of the business, illegal and legal, like the casino at Shwe Kokko and while their surrender and compliance is welcomed, much of this is about business and making money so we are wary of them,” she said.

Shwe Kokko sits on the Moei River about 20 kilometers north of Myawaddy and has been targeted by international law enforcement agencies as a hub for human trafficking, online scam operations and illegal gambling.

Ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) — like the KNLA — and the PDF have recorded decisive victories over the military after five months of heavy fighting which was continuing elsewhere in the country with anti-regime forces escalating the deployment of long-range drones.

Unconfirmed reports claimed military personnel were killed and injured after the PDF launched its fourth drone attack on the junta’s Aye Lar Air Base in Naypyidaw on April 11 night.

A PDF military headquarters statement said advances in long-range drones had enabled those attacks.

“This is the first experience of long-range drones,” said NUG Union Defence Minister U Yee Mon. “The explosive power of a drone is 20 percent stronger than that of a [previous model] 107, and the depth penetration is better.”

In the west, the Arakan Army has urged locals to leave Sittwe and Kyaukphyu ahead of “decisive battles” while there were unconfirmed reports that some 60 Rohingya were killed by air strikes in Minbya in Arakan state.

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