The Tatmadaw last night launched a full-scale offensive against PDF forces operating in the area surrounding the Sagaing region town of Pinlebu.
The onslaught comes after Burma’s National Unity Government reported that 25 junta soldiers had been killed in Pinlebu, Wuntho and Kawlin townships during running battles between KIA-controlled PDF groups and the military on Friday. Victorious resistance forces captured a large haul of weaponry from the Tatmadaw.
In response to the fighting, the Tatmadaw Air Force last night launched airstrikes on villages across Pinlebu. Shortly after, phone and internet services were cut to the area, leaving residents unable to report intensifying atrocities or contact friends and family.
One Pinlebu native currently living outside of the city told DVB that relatives had been unable to hear her voice during a phone call last night as the sound had been drowned out by the noise of military aircraft.
“My family told me that they couldn’t sleep due to the sounds of propellers overhead and the explosions from air strikes against villages near to the city. I haven’t been able to contact anyone from 6 a.m.—not only via the internet, but also over the phone.” The source added that she was certain that lines had been cut following a decree made by the junta, and not as a result of airstrikes or PDF activity.
At midday today, the Pinlebu People’s Defense Force (PPDF) announced on social media that, following the internet blackout, Tatmadaw forces had launched a full-scale assault on the entirety of Pinlebu Township, sending thousands of troops into the area and launching further aerial attacks with fighter jets. The group urged PDFs from across Burma to launch battles in their own regions to deflect the military’s attention from Pinlebu.
Fighting continued this afternoon, but information flows from the town have slowed in the face of the communications blackout. Local residents are fearful that Pinlebu may be on the verge of experiencing a massacre similar to those witnessed over recent months in neighbouring townships of Chin State and Sagaing Region.
Following a series of junta-imposed internet blackouts over the past two week, almost 25 cities—all of which are seen by the military as fostering PDF activity—have lost lines of communication to the rest of the country. Many townships targeted have now experienced months of violence, facing far greater bloodshed than any other region of Burma.
This morning, the Sagaing townships of Kawlin, and Wuntho—in which battles caused high troop death tolls on Friday—also lost internet connectivity; following these cuts, services are now down in eight townships in Chin State, ten townships in Sagaing Region, four townships in Magway Region, and two townships in Mandalay region. Hpakant in Kachin State has now been been subjected to five weeks of blanket blackouts. As students of the Tatmadaw are well aware, the downing of lines of communication is a strong indicator that the military has, or will, begin performing atrocities against the affected area.
The junta recently declared it would intensify attacks on villages that were seen to be hosting PDF groups. It has since launched scorched earth campaigns in Chin State and Sagaing.
In response to growing condemnation, the military’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday released a statement urging foreign missions in Burma to “fact-check” before making statements on the blackouts. In a press release, the military attacked comments made by some foreign missions, saying that conclusions drawn were based on “unreliable and unverified sources”, and claiming that outages were being driven by acts of sabotage by “terrorist groups”: namely, the NUG and local PDFs.
MPT (a Japanese-Burmese joint-venture telecom) had earlier stated on their Call Center platform that internet services had been cut to the regions in question under the direction of the Directorate of Telecommunications.