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Burma coup resistance notes August 19, 2023
Resistance forces strike close to junta capital; NUG & ethnic army leaders predict the end is near; junta manpower shortage
The junta’s fear of Revolution forces closing in on its capital proved justified this week. Combined ethnic armies and local PDFs together stormed a junta camp in Pyinmanah Township of southeastern Naypyitaw Region, only 50 km from the military capital city. From August 10 to 13 the Karen army, Karenni defense forces, and Naypyitaw and Shan State PDFs attacked regime troops seven times, killing over 50 of them including at least one officer, wounding over 40, and overrunning a camp at Bomathan, where they captured weapons. Videos of the camp invasion and photos of dead junta troops are circulating. Three Revolution soldiers were also killed and 3 wounded. Besides the camp, joint Revolution forces attacked junta reinforcements in transit and transports of wounded troops, contributing to the large death toll. The junta responded with airstrikes. One of the Naypyitaw PDF commanders said, “All roads lead to Naypyitaw,” and that Revolutionary forces will be attacking the city from all routes. (Mizzima 8/13, Khit Thit Media 8/15, People’s Spring 8/16)
National Unity Government interim president Duwa Lashila made a statement on August 15 saying the junta is “on the verge of total collapse and in a state of disarray.” He warned that the regime may increase its “psychopathic acts” and try to create division between PDFs, referencing some recent clashes between PDFs in Magway Division. He emphasized unity and the protection of civilians and their livelihoods during the final stage of fighting. (Khit Thit Media 8/16)
With growing frequency, battles are ending with surviving junta troops fleeing and leaving their weapons to the Revolution forces. Another trend is the application of the term ‘ပျက်နေပြိ’ or “broken”, when describing the junta army. Opposing commanders and analysts use this term to describe the former Burma army’s morale, understaffing, disorganization, and other problems that increasingly cripple its effectiveness.
In addition to the large haul of weapons captured in the battle of Demawso last week, Karenni defense forces captured more at 2 battles in the far south in Hpasaung Township on August 10 & 12 and killed at least 20 junta troops. These were troops sent from Shan State. Two Karenni soldiers were also killed. The captured weapons included rifles and bullets as well as hundreds of 60mm mortar rounds and grenades. (People's Spring 8/12)
Then on August 12 there was another battle closer to Loikaw in Hpruso town. Karenni forces attacked a junta column, where 24 junta troops were killed including two officers, and the junta forces had to retreat. Another large haul of weapons was captured. Karenni forces control a section of the Demawso-Hpruso-Bawlakhe road, and the junta is trying to break through. (Kantarawaddy Times 8/13)
Karenni forces raided a junta food supply depot on the Thai border on August 13, killing 5 troops and capturing weapons. Two Karenni soldiers were wounded. The junta sent jets to bomb Karenni camps at the border, where they violated Thai air space again. (Kantarawaddy Times 8/13)
A junta source said 30 of its troops died during battles in Karenni land in the 2nd week of August, all of them from bases in Kalaw Township of Shan State. Among the dead were a battalion commander lieutenant colonel and a deputy battalion commander. (Khit Thit Media 8/16) Actual casualties usually turn out to be higher than junta admissions like this one.
The junta has been waging an all-out campaign against the Karenni for 2 months, involving thousands of troops as well as jets and helicopters, since the Karenni took over Mese in mid-June. No overall picture is available yet on the situation, but the recent news indicates heavy junta losses of both troops and weapons. Since the enemy penetrated across the Salween River in Bawlakhe Township and south to the border of Mese Township during July, no new advances have been reported. The Karenni may be holding the line. If they can do that, they could soon push the junta backward toward Loikaw, especially if the junta is forced to withdraw troops to protect its threatened capital.
On August 13 the Cobra battalion reported that 17 junta troops had been killed during ten attempts to retake Latkatdaung Mountain up to that point, and two had defected and joined the Karen; one Cobra had died and eight were injured. The Cobras said the enemy couldn’t even reach the foot of the mountain. (Khit Thit Media 8/14) There are also reports of junta troops deserting to nearby Mae Sot, Thailand, where the NUG is making an effort to find and support them.
Then on August 15 the junta mounted a larger offensive from Myawaddy town toward Latkatdaung mountaing, beginning before dawn with mortar fire, multiple missile launchers, and airstrikes, followed up by junta and BGF ground troops. The Karen Cobras fired back, killing 15 junta troops including an officer and wounding 21, and the rest were forced to retreat back to the town. A nearby hospital at Metalin Myaing was filled with wounded BGF. Two Karen soldiers were killed and 5 wounded. The Cobras captured military rifles, a sniper rifle, bullets, mortar rounds, rocket-propelled grenades and launchers, and other equipment. The junta bombed with jets, damaging religious buildings and a communications tower but not harming the Cobras. (Kawthoolei government KNU information service 8/17) A Telegram video shows Cobra soldiers patrolling the battlefield afterward, collecting weapons from dead junta troops. https://t.me/khitthitnews/133840
In Klwer Lwi Htoo District, Karen-led forces bombed a junta supply train on the Yangon-Mandalay railroad on August 18. The train was carrying weapons and ammunition. (People’s Spring 8/18)
After issuing a warning to junta admin staff on August 8 to get out of Papun town, Karen army Brigade 5 blew up six locations there on the night of August 11. The targets included the junta immigration office, the court, the census office, the tax office, the director of immigration’s residence, and the general administration staff housing. The locations were all vacant and nobody was hurt, perhaps indicating that the warning was heeded. The Karen issued an earlier warning on January 1, after which a large number of junta staff and families left town. On July 18 the Papun office of the junta-proxy USDP political party was destroyed by a bomb. (Mizzima 8/13) Papun town is an island of junta control in Mutraw District, which is otherwise dominated by Brigade 5. The fact that the Karen forces can penetrate thoroughly enough to plant six bombs at once shows that the junta’s remaining hold is tenuous, and without staff, it can no longer administer even that tiny enclave.
If there was any question of where the Kawthoolei government, the KNU, stands on independence vs. federal democracy, a statement emerging from an August 11 KNU press conference provided clarification. KNU Secretary Padoh Saw Tado Mu said the KNU sees itself professionalizing young fighters in the Karen army who will go on to form part of the new federal national armed forces. Many soldiers currently fighting with the Karen army are non-Karen who will likely leave Kawthoolei and return to their homes after the war. Politically, the KNU works to shape the future form of a federal government where the rights and self-determination of ethnic homelands are protected, including both minorities and the majority Bamar people. (Nikkei Asia 8/12) The Karen will not only be members of the new union, they are staking a leadership role.
Karen military control of southeastern roads is blocking junta shipments of troops and supplies. On August 15 Karen army Brigade 1 intercepted a 5-vehicle convoy in Kyaikto Township on the Yangon-Mawlamyaing road, damaging 2 vehicles and killing 5 troops; the rest fled. (Than Lwin Times 8/16)
Karen PDFs have effectively cut off the supply of aviation fuel to most of Beit-Tavoy District, to the extent that commercial flights cannot refuel there. Planes are having to take on fuel in Yangon for both the outward and return flights to Tavoy and Kawthaung airports, meaning that they have to take 10 fewer passengers on the way out due to the increased fuel weight. This is one effect of Karen control of roads in Mon State and Beit-Tavoy District. Only Beit airport can get fuel shipments by sea transport. (Tanintharyi Times 8/13)
Junta troops in Beit-Tavoy’s Thayetchaung Township have become known for looting villages where they have driven out the population. On August 14, fifteen troops went out to do that again and were counter-atttacked by local PDFs. After three were killed, the rest fled, and 4 didn’t return to their base, presumed to have deserted. (Tanintharyi Times 8/15)
A local chapter of the Chin defense forces attacked a junta army township headquarters in Hpalam the night of August 11-12 and captured mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, rifles, and machine guns. Six junta troops were killed and 9 wounded, and 1 Chin soldier was killed. The junta responded by firing mortars into nearby villages, injuring 3 civilians, and a jet airstrike on another village that destroyed houses and a church and injured 7 civilians. The church was a direct hit, evidently the intentional target. (Zalen News Department, Khit Thit Media, People’s Spring 8/12)
The Kachin army, besieged near its capital Laiza but holding back the junta, continues to counter-attack in various other places. On August 12 it was in Kathah Township in tandem with allied PDFs, where the Kachin-led forces headed off a junta column entering from Indaw Township. Casualty figures aren’t reported. (People's Spring 8/13) Then on August 17 a foot column of 200 junta troops was marching from Kutkai to Muse and was attacked by the Kachin army, and a protracted battle began. (Kachin News Group 8/17)
Clashes continue between the junta and the Ta’ang army (TNLA) in Lashio Township. The latest round of conflict started in early July, and there have been 13 fights so far. The TNLA counter-attacked a junta base on August 11, saying that they killed 25 junta troops. This front is consuming scarce junta resources, as it sends troops and aircraft to try to subdue the Ta’ang. It is now targeting civilians for murder. (Ayeyarwaddy Times 8/13, Khit Thit Media 8/18)
The old junta-collaborationist New Mon State Party’s tiny “non-shooting” armed wing has begun patrols with the permission of the Naypyitaw regime in Thanbuzayat and Mudon Townships. They stay out of the way of the much stronger Karen army and Revolutionary Mon groups. (Than Lwin Times 8/12)
People’s Defense Forces (PDFs)-----------------
A PDF attack on 100 junta troops in Yinmapin Township of Sagaing Region began on August 6 and continued for a week, resulting in 15 junta troops and 2 PDF soldiers killed and 5 PDF soldiers were wounded by junta mortar fire. The troops were trying to steal supplies donated to refugees from the junta’s village terrorism campaign. They were attacked with drones, shock missiles, mortars, and small arms.
Ten PDFs joined forces to destroy a junta and Pyu Saw Htee camp in Shwebo Township of Sagaing Region at dawn on August 11. The PDFs burned 80% of the camp before running out of ammunition and leaving. One Pyu Saw Htee member was arrested and interrogated. No word on casualties. (Myaelatt Athan 8/12)
PDFs led by CDSOM in Myaung Township attacked the junta police barracks in Myaung town on August 13, with the intention of eventually taking over the whole town. At this point the junta is confined to a few heavily-fortified sites, and the PDFs want to wear those down and capture them. Locally-manufactured mortars and drones were used in the attack, which hit the staff housing inside the camp. (Mandalay Free Press 8/14)
Similarly, a PDF in far northern Mandalay Region attacked a police station in Mogok town on August 16, killing five junta troops, as well as a junta electric company office and a bunker at a school. The PDF said its soldiers were able to walk the streets of the town freely, and that the town is ripe for capture, since the junta is holed up in just a few locations. (Mandalay Free Press 8/17)
PDFs drove away junta troops that were stealing illegally-logged timber in Yinmapin Township, and donated the captured timber to refugees made homeless by the junta’s village terrorism campaign. (People's Spring 8/13)
A leaked internal report says that the junta’s 114th Battalion based in Naungcho in Shan State should have 857 troops and officers, but instead has only 132. CDM military analysts (defected from the junta) believe even this number is inflated, as commanders regularly over-report their troop numbers by 5 to 10. They say that across the country battalions often have fewer than 100 soldiers left. This is one reason they call the junta army “broken.” So many soldiers have been killed that the battalion structure has been severely damaged. (Khit Thit Media 8/14)
Also in Shan State, all non-CDM (e.g. junta-collaborationist) government staff are now considered military reserves. They have been instructed to be formed into battalions and given weapons training. Many civilian government employees are likely to flee to avoid fighting, according to the inside source leaking this information. (Khit Thit Media 8/14) Handing guns to middle-aged bureaucrats and teachers and expecting them to face battle-hardened PDFs is a desperation measure with little chance of slowing the Revolution’s advance.
In Bago Region’s Natalin Township and Irrawaddy Region’s Kanjitaung Township, local junta administrators are trying to recruit an anti-Revolution civilian militia, because there are no longer junta troops available to occupy those areas. They are demanding 5 recruits per ward, who will get 7 days of training and a weapon. (Myaelatt Athan 8/19)
A National Unity Government spokesman says over 50 people have defected from the junta so far in August, including several officers at the major and captain ranks. These defections happen all over the country. He says that there are even more who have not defected but are helping the Revolution from inside the junta – known as watermelons. Also, some of the defectors are motivated by the regime’s changing the national identity cards, carried by every citizen, to a biometric format; they don’t want their biometric information in junta hands. (Tanintharyi Times 8/15)
A Pyu Saw Htee terrorist leader and ultra-nationalist pro-junta monk is pleading for help from the junta because 7,000 households in Kalay and Gangaw Townships have run out of food and fuel due to strong PDF territorial control. The PDFs are blockading 12 Pyu Saw Htee camps and arresting anyone who goes out to get supplies. About 500 Pyu Saw Htee families so far have surrendered and gone to the PDFs due to their deprivation. (Tanintharyi Times 8/15, Mandalay Free Press 8/15)
Another instance of chemical weapons use is reported on August 15 from Kalay Township in Sagaing Region. A mobile medical team says gas from junta bombs caused fever, vomiting, body ache, shortness of breath, and dizziness, and unconsciousness among local civilians in Thasi village, leaving them unable to escape. Between 150 and 200 troops then invaded the village. (Zalen News Department 8/16) Thasi is on the Kalay-Gangaw road, which the junta is trying to retake from PDF control. PDFs are counter-attacking.
Political and economic-------------------
The exchange rate has reached 3750 kyats to the US dollar in the wake of the issuance of the 20,000 kyat junta notes. This contrasts with 1300:1 before the coup. The regime is blaming “rumors” and threatening to jail anyone caught trading at such rates. Consumers are having difficulty buying basic food commodities, and resistance forces are finding supplies like ammunition more expensive. (Khit Thit Media 8/14)
The coup-induced inflation has made regular medicines basically unaffordable, so pharmacies and patients are turning to drugs smuggled from India, which are free from the junta’s taxes. War in the northwest is now making the Indian drugs hard to get, so their prices are rising also. (The Irrawaddy 8/17)
On August 12, 2023 the junta’s “central bank,” which already tightly controlled and manipulated foreign currency trading, expanded the policy to cover gold, silver, real estate, and car sales. By demanding detailed information on every transaction including buyer personal data, types of businesses, income streams, asset sale prices, purchase purposes, etc., the regime can crack down on anyone transacting at the kyat’s floating exchange rate of 3650 to the US dollar. It is still forcefully trying to maintain the fiction of a 2300:1 exchange rate. The regime can also tax all transactions, in its desperation for additional income sources. All transactions require regime approval for completion. Thus, the damping effect of excessive control on business spreads from import/export to these other sectors.
The July 20 American sanctions on two banks through which the junta conducts trades and receives hard currency have now resulted in banks in Singapore and Bangladesh freezing their assets and cutting off their ability to trade. More banks in Thailand, United Arab Emirates, and other countries are now targeted. (Mizzima 8/19)
H&M, the second largest fashion apparel company in the world, announced that it will gradually reduce its cooperation with its partner garment factories in Burma, due to abuse of workers by Chinese factory owners and the junta regime. That will close off another source of income and foreign currency to the regime. (People’s Spring 8/19)
Another UN department head has gone to Naypyitaw to provide a propaganda victory to the junta dictator, treating the illegal coup mastermind as if he were a head of state. Martin Griffiths, UN Under-secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, went and had a photo-op with the terrorist leader Min Aung Hlaing, and also with the junta’s so-called “foreign affairs minister” and “home affairs minister”, 4 generals in total. Griffiths was manipulated in the same way as other UN officials previously, not allowed to meet with any of the civil society organizations in Arakan State that were directly assisting those in need of aid; his contacts were restricted to the military and its allied religious personnel. (Mizzima 8/16, The Irrawaddy 8/19) UN agencies still sign pacts with the rogue Naypyitaw regime and work inside its control areas instead of dealing with the National Unity Government and working in the liberated parts of Burma where the humanitarian aid is needed. Most UN relief materials are used by the regime rather than distributed to storm and flood victims.
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