Freedom Memoirs – Day 322

Karen State continued to bear the effects of the heightened clashes between the junta forces and the coalition of local resistance groups, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and Karen National Defence Organisation (KNDO) in Lay Kay Kaw Town and surrounding areas. Today marks the fifth consecutive day that residents from parts of Myawaddy Township have to live in fear, displaced from home and families separated in cold winter days.
 
Karen Information Center (KIC) reported renewed clashes between Myittarlinmyaing and Mehtawthalay villages near Lay Kay Kaw town on the south of Myawaddy around 1pm today. The report said the junta forces were firing heavy machinery towards Mehtawthalay Village which was currently under the control of KNLA, KNDO and local PDFs, while at the same time over 200 soldiers from Border Guard Force and junta forces were advancing towards the village, intensifying the fighting on both sides. The clashes reportedly took out about 50 people on the junta’s side, including two battalion commanders and two deputy battalion commanders, the National Unity Government’s Public Voice TV reported. No casualties on the other side were mentioned.
 
On the Thai border side, there was an increase in the number of troops deployed, and only those who are in poor health are being allowed to cross the border, and the majority of the displaced residents are being evacuated to Phulugyi and Phululay villages. Thai authorities reportedly handed over more than 130 Myanmar refugees to BFG this evening, DVB News reported. About 132 people wanted to voluntarily return from Mae Sot camp on Thai’s side, said BGF Lt. Col. Saw Motthun. Since the fighting broke out on December 15, about 4,000 residents from Lay Kay Kaw and surrounding villages had been internally displaced and taking refuge in Thailand. On the morning of December 18, about 200 refugees returning home from Thailand to Mehtawthalay village were forced to flee again due to the junta forces shooting at the entrance of Mehtawthalay village, DVB News added.
 
Myanmar Now reported that the Thai authorities have been allowing the refugees to stay in a school in Mae Tao town, about four miles from the border. There are about 2,500 people staying there currently, and there was insufficient food, water and medical care. There was reportedly only one doctor tending to over 2,500 people, one of the refugees told Myanmar Now. Not only on the Thai’s side, the IDP camps on the border areas are also in need of urgent assistance. A resident of Lay Kay Kaw told Mizzima News that there are about 500 people stranded near the river bordering the two countries. She said on the first day of the fighting, she was living in the forest near the village, and then moved to Mae Wah Khi, but as the heavy artillery got closer again, they moved to the area beside the river.
 
With the northern cold air breezing towards our region, many IDPs and refugees are in dire need of food, blankets, warm clothes and shelter. In the central region of Myanmar, over 1,000 displaced residents from five villages in Magway Region’s Myaung Township are also facing difficulties due to continuous arson attacks from the junta forces since December 16. A resident of Nga Myaung village told DVB News that about 30 houses were torched by junta soldiers and 20 houses were completely burnt down, causing the villagers to shelter in the forest nearby.
 
We reported yesterday that the junta forces launched an aerial attack at Hnan Kha village in Magway Region’s Gantgaw Township during the Yaw People’s Defense Forces’ meeting. In the aftermath, many houses from Hnan Kha and nearby village, Myin Thar were burned down by junta troops. About 150 junta soldiers are reportedly deployed in the area, Myanmar Now reported today. Residents said this is the fifth time that the village was attacked by junta forces, and the internet connection has been cut off in the area for over two months now according to Ayeyarwaddy Times. More arson attacks were reported in Karenni (Kayah) State as well. The Karenni National Defense Force (KNDF) said the junta force set fire to more than 20 houses in Loikaw Township on December 18. This added onto the 400 buildings which were destroyed in four townships of Karenni and southern Shan states, as reported by Karenni Civil Society Network on December 5.
 
Not just in Lay Kay Kaw Town, intensifying clashes were reported in two townships of Sagaing Region and in Magway Region. The clashes in Sagaing Region’s Kani Township between the junta forces and Dictatorship Revolutionary People’s Army (DRPA) resulted in about 13 casualties on the junta’s side, Khit Thit Media quoted the announcement from the DRPA’s Department of Information. The same number of casualties on the junta’s side was reported from the landmine attack in Myin Thar village, Magway Region’s Gantgaw Township. Another landmine attack against the junta forces in Sagaing Region’s Salingyi Township also took out ten soldiers, according to Salingyi-PDF. The latest attack against the junta forces was reported in Sagaing Region’s Yimabin Township around 6pm. Yimabin PDF said it launched an attack against the advancing military convoy near Tel Pin Kan village resulting in many casualties, Khit Thit Media reported, but the exact number was yet to be published.
 
Protests against the military council are usually reported in many parts of Sagaing Region and in Mandalay city. But today, we saw youths of Yangon coming out again despite the recent brutality of the junta forces. A protest organized by Youths Union was held in Bahan Township where a small group marched the small streets of Bahan Township in defiance against the military rule. While we worry for their safety and security, their bravery will never be belittled, and will always be honored.

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