The tactical commander for the Karen National Liberation Army’s (KNLA) Brigade 5 was killed in a clash with the junta’s armed forces in Mutraw (Hpapun) District, Karen State, on Thursday, sources close to the ethnic armed organisation told Myanmar Now.
Col Htoo Ka Shaw, whose age remains unconfirmed, died during a KNLA attack on a strategic Myanmar army base known as Kyauk Nyat, located on the Salween River that separates Karen State from Mae Hong Son in Thailand.
Accompanied by a coalition of forces that included the Bamar People’s Liberation Army (BPLA) and led by the KNLA’s Col Htoo Ka Shaw, the Brigade 5 troops reportedly managed to seize control of the junta post from Infantry Battalion 434, whose soldiers were stationed there.
A statement released by the BPLA on Thursday said that a member of the KNLA was killed in the battle.
A source close to the Karen National Union (KNU), under which the KNLA operates, confirmed to Myanmar Now that this individual was Col Htoo Ka Shaw, who was also known by the name Saw Nay Toe.
“We still haven’t had contact with our battalion commanders on the frontlines, so we don’t know further details yet,” the individual said on Friday.
The KNU had not, at the time of reporting, released any information on the death of the commander. Spokespeople for the KNU and the KNLA did not answer Myanmar Now’s calls for comment.
Although pro-military Facebook pages and news departments reported that the KNLA colonel was killed by a junta airstrike launched after the Myanmar army lost the base, Myanmar Now is unable to verify these claims.
The BPLA’s statement said that there was a military air attack on the nearby village of Mae Nu Htar carried out after the resistance alliance seized control of the Kyauk Nyat base, and that locals from the area were forced by the strike to flee.
Nearly 175 clashes took place between the KNLA and the Myanmar army in Mutraw District during the first two weeks of April, which is territory administered by Brigade 5 of the KNU. More than 80 junta soldiers were killed in these battles and 44 injured, according to a KNU report released on April 19.
Following the KNLA seizure of another junta base in Mutraw on the military’s Armed Forces Day in March last year, Col Saw Htoo Ka Shaw described the act as a rejection of the coup regime and Myanmar military occupation.
“Their bullying and killing of unarmed civilians across Myanmar is against our revolutionary force’s beliefs. We cannot accept inhumane acts, not only in Karen State, but also in other areas,” he said.
“In our area, we do not want the [junta’s] army and soldiers who commit such acts. There should be no place on earth for those who commit inhumane acts,” he added.