New armed group formed by ousted KNDO leader will not be recognised by KNU 

A commando column under the Karen National Defence Organisation (KNDO) announced the formation of the new Kawthoolei Army this week headed by its former leader Saw Nerdah Mya. 

The Tuesday declaration by the commando unit, which joined the new armed group, followed the earlier removal of Saw Nerdah Mya from his role as KNDO commander-in-chief by the Karen National Union (KNU), which oversees the KNDO and the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) as its armed wings.

Saw Nerdah Mya, who was terminated from his role in January, was replaced in the interim by Brig-Gen Saw She Lay. The latter was formally granted the KNDO leadership position last week, at which time the organisation also commemorated its 75th anniversary.

Saw Nerdah Mya’s Kawthoolei Army will not be recognised by the KNU or the KNLA, according to statements issued by both institutions on Wednesday. 

“His actions are no longer relevant to us,” the KNU’s statement said.  

His decision to form a new armed group was in violation of a recent emergency meeting of KNDO and KNLA leaders and did not have the consent of their battalion commanders, the KNLA said in its own statement, urging its members to be “very cautious” in any dealings with the new group. 

The KNU’s central committee explained that Saw Nerdah Mya violated several KNU regulations during his tenure as KNDO chief—which began in 2013—including a failure to follow military orders and the “illegal” raising of funds. 

“From the time he started serving, he frequently violated the rules and responsibilities of the Supreme Headquarters of the KNLA and KNU, and he had to be corrected many times,” the committee said. 

In June of last year, the Myanmar military accused around 30 KNDO troops under the leadership of Saw Nerdah Mya’s lieutenant Saw Ba Wah of murdering 25 construction workers who they had taken hostage; they were found dead with their hands tied behind their backs in the Waw Lay area of Karen State’s Myawaddy Township. 

The KNDO claimed that the men were junta soldiers disguised as labourers; the military maintained that they were civilians. 

The KNU’s central executive committee announced that they would investigate the allegations against the KNDO and suspended Saw Nerdah Mya from his commanding position, a decision which he rejected.

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Brig-Gen Saw She Lay, who replaced Saw Nerdah Mya as KNDO commander, is seen at the official 75th anniversary ceremony of the organisation on July 16 in Brigade 7 (KNU)

In January of this year, the KNU announced that both Saw Nerdah Mya and Saw Ba Wah had been removed from their posts. 

“[Saw Nerdah Mya] failed to cooperate at the different stages [of the investigation] as a responsible and accountable leader and eventually defied the KNU’s judicial process,” the KNU’s central executive committee said in Wednesday’s statement. “These actions also halted the KNU’s process of bringing to justice those suspected of being involved in the extrajudicial killings of prisoners of war,” the committee concluded.

According to interviews with a local Karen-language radio program and with RFA, Saw Nerdah Mya said he plans to continue fighting the junta with his new armed force. 

He claimed that it had become difficult to operate within the KNU’s structure, and that several members of the KNDO and the KNLA—as well as from breakaway groups the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army and the KNU/KNLA-Peace Council—had joined the Kawthoolei Army.

At the time of reporting, Myanmar Now was unable to verify Saw Nerdah Mya’s recent statements and was still trying to obtain comment from him regarding the establishment of the group.

The ruins of a Khin-U Township village destroyed by a Myanmar military arson attack, seen on November 21 (Myanmar Now)

As Sagaing attacks continue, Myanmar junta’s scorched earth tactics earn WWII comparison

A former information minister close to the military becomes the latest to condemn the regime’s campaign of wholesale destruction in Upper Myanmar 

The ruins of a Khin-U Township village destroyed by a Myanmar military arson attack, seen on November 21 (Myanmar Now)

A former information minister close to the military becomes the latest to condemn the regime’s campaign of wholesale destruction in Upper Myanmar 

According to the Mone Hla defence team leader, the column responsible for the raid on the village consisted of around 80 regime soldiers based in Kar Boe, a village in Kanbalu Township.

It was the same column that raided and torched the predominantly Muslim villages of Kyi Su and Kyauk Taing the day before, he added.

He also claimed that his defence team inflicted heavy casualties on the regime forces as they left the neighbouring village of Pin Sein Khin in Ye-U Township before reaching Mone Hla.

“We attacked them with explosives and killed seven of them. We also opened fire on them when they tried to recover the bodies, killing 15 more,” he said.

Forced to pull back to Pin Sein Khin, the junta troops opened fire with heavy artillery, killing a 40-year-old woman named Mya who was trying to flee the conflict, he added.

After reaching Mone Hla in the evening, the regime forces burned down roughly a third of the village, according to a resident who returned over the weekend.

“The village is now in complete ruins. They even destroyed the high school,” he said.

Mone Hla was also targeted by airstrikes in July, when three helicopters fired artillery shells at the 700-household village, reportedly hitting a local church and other religious buildings.

The village is the birthplace of Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, the Catholic Archbishop of Yangon, who in May of last year appealed to the military to refrain from targeting religious sites after four people were killed by artillery fire while sheltering inside a Catholic church near the Karenni (Kayah) capital Loikaw.

Despite continuing attacks, however, he appeared in public with junta leader Min Aung Hlaing during last year’s Christmas holidays, provoking a strong outcry from critics. 

The cardinal, who was elected by Pope Francis in 2015, has met with the junta chief twice since the military seized power in February 2021.

Members of the Khin-U Township PDT on the frontline on November 19 (Myanmar Now)

14-year-old boy and resistance fighter killed in Khin-U

The boy was shot as he fled approaching junta soldiers and a member of a local defence team was beheaded after being caught scouting the area

Members of the Khin-U Township PDT on the frontline on November 19 (Myanmar Now)

The boy was shot as he fled approaching junta soldiers and a member of a local defence team was beheaded after being caught scouting the area

Win Myint Hlaing’s family have not heard from him since his arrest on Monday (Supplied)

Relatives fear for safety of ousted NLD lawmaker detained with his brother 

His arrest came amid reports that people in Magway Region had been tortured into confessing he was a member of the PDF 

Win Myint Hlaing’s family have not heard from him since his arrest on Monday (Supplied)

His arrest came amid reports that people in Magway Region had been tortured into confessing he was a member of the PDF 

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