An alliance of local anti-junta defence forces simultaneously attacked artillery and air force bases as well as a police station in a Magway Region town on the border with Chin State on Saturday evening, a representative of one of the resistance groups said.
Wai La, a battalion commander within the Kyaukhtu People’s Defence Force (PDF) in Saw Township, told Myanmar Now that they had fired 10 improvised artillery shells at the military bases in the town, and 20 more at the Kyaukhtu police station.
He said his group was accompanied by The Youth Force, which is made up of guerrilla fighters from Kyaukhtu as well as throughout Saw—which is located in the area of northwestern Myanmar known as the Yaw region.
The allied forces reportedly exchanged gunfire for around one hour with junta troops during the attack on the police station before withdrawing.
“There could be a large number of casualties on the junta’s side. One of our people got injured as well,” Wai La said, referring to a member of the Kyaukhtu PDF who suffered a wound to his arm from the explosion of a junta artillery shell.
Myanmar Now was unable to verify the number of casualties or police officers injured on the military’s side. The military council has not released any information on the attacks.
As the resistance forces retreated, Wai La said that a military aircraft was seen arriving to provide support to the troops at the targeted police station.
The junta columns targeted by the resistance forces had carried out previous assaults on civilians, the PDF battalion commander said, accusing the artillery unit alone of firing more than 20 mortar shells at villages around Kyaukhtu.
As of Sunday, locals said troops from those units had not carried out their regular patrols in the area, but a helicopter was reportedly seen hovering over the town on Saturday night following the clashes.
“We were sleeping at home when the attacks happened. We didn’t dare to go back to sleep after we heard the sound of heavy artillery shells being fired,” a local man told Myanmar Now.
Kyaukhtu is strategically located on the road to Chin State townships where resistance to the military has been strong, including Kanpetlet, Matupi and Mindat. Junta forces regularly pass through the town when sending reinforcements, weapons and ammunition to those areas.
In March, a major military convoy of 80 vehicles used Kyaukhtu as a rest stop for days before heading to Matupi in southern Chin State.
Defence forces in the area have been known to occasionally intercept such convoys.
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Six others were given five-year sentences with hard labour, and another 15 were banished from northern Shan State, the statement added.
Days after the incident, ethnic armed groups in northern Shan State invited the perpetrators to a meeting and detained them on November 31, according to Ko Doe.
The new group declined to disclose where the prisoners were being detained.
“There is a prison. I can’t say the location, but there is a private prison for them,” said Ko Doe, adding that the exiled members were also forbidden from taking part in the armed resistance movement against the Myanmar regime.
Although the severity of the crime would have justified the use of the death penalty, he said, the chief defendants were only given long prison sentences because of their previous involvement in the revolution.
Sadan, one of the survivors of the attack and now a member of the Muse Byu Har PDF, complained that the punishment was too lenient.
“I want them to get the death penalty, if possible,” he told Myanmar Now.
He added that the Muse Byu Har PDF was formed transparently and would continue to fight until the military junta is defeated.
The group will abide by the NUG’s military regulations and form alliances with other resistance forces in northern Shan State, according to Ko Doe. He also urged the public to continue its support.
“We have been involved in the revolution for two years, so even though we are newly reformed, we have the experience we need. I urge the people to keep trusting us,” he said.
The current strength of the group is unknown, but a video of a military refresher training course conducted by the PSDA in mid-2022 showed some 100 participants in military uniforms.
The PSDA was founded in April 2021 by Dawna Thanlwin, who was later killed in battle. Shweli Thanlwin took over as commander of the group after his death.
A number of members subsequently left the group amid concerns about Shweli Thanlwin’s leadership and his alleged misuse of funds.