13 Myanmar army bases abandoned in Karenni State since the coup: KNPP

Myanmar’s military has abandoned a total of 13 bases in Karenni (Kayah) State since resistance to its rule began more than year ago, according to the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP).

The group, whose armed wing, the Karenni Army (KA), is one of the main anti-junta forces active in the state, said that the bases were located in four of the state’s seven townships.

Eight were in Shadaw Township, Hpruso and Mese townships had two each, and one was in Bawlakhe, KNPP secretary Khu Daniel told Myanmar Now.

“None of the bases were temporary outposts. They had all been in those areas for more than 10 years,” he said, adding that the most recent base to be abandoned was in Shadaw.

Troops retreated from the base on August 5 and the KA subsequently burned it down, he said.

Over the past 15 months, a number of armed resistance groups have emerged in Karenni State in response to brutal crackdowns on anti-coup protests.

The KNPP, which has fought successive dictatorships in Myanmar for decades, has joined forces with many of these newer groups, which include the Karenni Nationalities Defence Force and chapters of the People’s Defence Force operating under the command of the elected National Unity Government.

Using guerrilla tactics, the resistance forces have gained some degree of control in much of the state, including even in the capital Loikaw, located just over 200km east of Naypyitaw, where the military council’s administration is based.

The regime has responded to attacks on its troops with heavy artillery and aerial assaults, but has so far failed to dislodge local groups, which rely on their superior knowledge of the state’s terrain and the support of civilians to continue putting pressure on the junta’s forces.

“We don’t really stay in a base and fight from there. We can move wherever we want to,” said Khu Daniel, contrasting this situation with that of regime troops stationed in the state.

“The military council’s forces are largely confined to their battalions and bases. Whenever they go out and make movements on the ground, we engage them,” he said.

Once they leave their bases, junta troops are extremely vulnerable to ambushes and routinely suffer heavy casualties, he added.

“Using guerrilla tactics, such as snipers, we can block their logistical support routes. This is why they have given up a number of their bases,” he said.

Earlier this month, the military sent hundreds of troops towards Demoso Township from bases in southern Shan State and Loikaw in an attempt to gain complete control over the township. Clashes between resistance forces and the junta army have been reported on a daily basis since then.

According to the Progressive Karenni People’s Force (PKPF), a youth group that monitors the ongoing conflict, there have been at least 420 clashes in Karenni State and neighbouring townships in southern Shan State since the coup.

Around 1,300 junta soldiers and 150 resistance fighters have been killed in those clashes, the latest PKPF figures, released on August 16, show.

At least 300 civilians have also been killed, while more than 200,000 have been displaced, according to the group.