Intense fighting broke out between the Burma Army and PDF groups in Loikaw city, capital of Kayah State this morning.
Reports suggest that a number of civilians have died after troops fired heavy artillery during skirmishes that broke out in Loikaw’s Mong Lone, Pankan, and Ywa Tan Shay villages.
“Someone was hit by an artillery shell near my house. He said five family members were injured and one was killed after the house, inhabited largely by Pa-O people, was hit by the shell. We did not dare to go out and now stay at home—I have to dig a bomb shelter in my house,” a resident of Mong Lone village told DVB.
Junta troops are also reported to have used snipers positioned in a number of Loikaw’s highrise buildings. Three civilian bodies bearing signs of being shot by rifles were discovered near the Mong Lone Railway, locals said.
Rosalin Ei, a rescue worker aiding those trapped in the fighting, noted on Facebook that skirmishes continued this morning in Loikaw. “Many remain to be rescued. I was lucky enough to be released from the deadly morning shell but I feel sorry for my friends who were hit by the shells. I was shaking as I was scared. Those emergency displaced people would need mosquito nets and blankets.”
A man helping ferry victims of the attack to medics said seven people in the area were injured in shelling by junta troops.
“Due to the shelling, seven patients have been evacuated this morning. Our combined forces are rescuing people who are trapped in the fighting.”
Second Secretary of the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), Aung San Myint, said junta aircraft opened fire close to the KNPP headquarters, located east of the Thanlwin river where intense clashes took place this morning.
“Fighting has been going on since this morning. During the attack, their aircraft came and opened fire with heavy artillery. The situation is still not over yet,” he said.
Nearby, the Karenni Army (KA) reported that it had seized the Nat Taung camp— a military base camp near Nang Pan creek, the border separating Thailand from Kayah State—this morning, claiming many casualties on the side of the military.
“The Karenni Army has successfully seized the camp. A helicopter arrived shortly after the seizure and dropped bombs. It also continully dropped bombs over KA HQ, the Nyar Mu base, but they missed,” said a KA announcement.
It is estimated that around half of Kayah State, which has a population of roughly 300,000, is currently displaced due to post-coup fighting. Now that Loikaw city’s wards are under attack, there are no more safe places.
In light of the latest violence in Kayah, The KNPP’s Aung San Myint called on the international community to establish a safe zone in the region allowing aid groups to provide humanitarian assistance.
“Battles are everywhere, not only in Loikaw but in Demoso, 5 mile, Pan Kan, 6 mile, Hpruso, Shar Taw… and also in the borderlands. So, we can say it is happening across the state. The international community and the UN must put pressure on this issue. Currently, there is no safe place for people, whether it is at the border or not,” he said.
Fighting between an alliance of the KNDF, KDF and GZ-21 Loikaw and the Burma army has raged in wider townships of Demoso and Loikaw since January 1, forcing in excess of 300 residents to abandon urban properties.