Escalating Conflicts and Humanitarian Crisis Unfolding

Myanmar Spring Chronicle – December 17

Escalating Conflicts and Humanitarian Crisis Unfolding

MoeMaKa, December 18, 2023

Bridge Blown Up Between Myawaddy and Kawkareik; Sagaing Division Gripped by Intensifying Battles

Recent reports highlight a critical development impacting the Thai-Myanmar border trade, with a pivotal bridge on the Asian Road, a key route facilitating cross-border trade, being destroyed. Located near Kawt Nwet Village in Kawkareik, the bridge has been rendered impassable, disrupting vehicular movement for weeks due to the protracted battle for control over Kawkareik.

Initiated weeks after the commencement of the 1027 operation in Northern Shan State, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and allied forces launched attacks on Kawkareik. As of December 16, the city remains unconquered, witnessing casualties among remaining residents due to artillery shelling, gunshots, and airstrikes.

This development has led to a logistical bottleneck at the Thailand-Myanmar border, affecting hundreds of export and import trucks. Small vehicles are now rerouting through Htawt Kawt Koe Road to reach Hpa-An, Mawlamyine, and Yangon. The Thai border trade has felt the impact after weeks of disruption.

In Karen State, current conflict zones include Kawkareik and areas near Sabai Gu Bridge, bordering Kyainseikgyi and Kyaikmaraw Townships. Additionally, the KNLA and allied forces are actively pursuing the capture of Mone in Nyaunglebin District, Bago Division.

The revolutionary forces seem strategically focused on challenging the military council in Karen State and the border regions of Bago Division, Mon State, and Karen State. This is perceived as an opportune moment, coinciding with the offensive against military council troops in camps and towns in Northern Shan, lower Kachin State, Sagaing, Chin, and the Indian border.

Simultaneously, Sagaing Division is grappling with a surge in conflict. Reports indicate tens of thousands of local residents fleeing Pale Township due to intensified offensive actions by the military council. Similar scenes are unfolding in Ye-U and Depayin, with thousands evacuating amid military council offensives.

Last week’s aerial bombardment over Min Taing Pin Village resulted in casualties, including a judicial officer and a child. Although no military council columns were reported in Min Taing Pin Village during that time, neighboring villages were targeted. People’s defense forces and local residents supporting them were arrested, killed, and their properties set ablaze. Residents across Sagaing Division have been forced to flee multiple times, experiencing the burning of homes and temporary shelters.

Residents engaged in moderate agricultural, livestock, and regional trade, with their own fields, cattle, and modest capital, are grappling with the destruction of property. Their ability to engage in agriculture and livestock activities has been compromised, leading to economic distress. The military council’s scorched-earth tactics and looting have left them without income, struggling to afford basic necessities like food and medicine.

Sagaing, lacking geographical advantages for safe migration, has seen residents wandering through one or two townships on carts, motorbikes, and on foot to escape the conflict. Despite the military council relinquishing some camps and towns in northern Shan State and facing resistance in various regions, Sagaing Division remains a focal point for the military council’s forceful efforts, indicating a potential escalation of violent tactics for survival.