Intense conflict erupted in Kawkareik and news headlines

Myanmar Spring Chronicle – December 01

MoeMaKa, December 02, 2023

Intense Clashes in Kawkareik; Rakhine Negotiation Mediator Arrives in Nay Pyi Taw; Assassination of New National Democratic Party Chairman

On December 1, reports surfaced about fierce battles in Kawkareik, Karen State, where KNLA and joint forces clashed in an attempt to seize the town. Some parts of the town were set ablaze, resulting in civilian casualties due to gunfire. Buildings in the Agricultural Mechanization Department office were also reported to be set on fire. Civilians in the town faced perilous situations, with at least 5 reported deaths. The military council’s artillery fire, airstrikes, and blockades on highways exacerbated the crisis, causing disruptions in travel and prompting travelers to seek refuge from the ongoing violence.

The town of Kawkareik, a crucial route from Hpa-An to the Thai border town of Myawaddy, witnessed attacks by KNU and joint forces, including PDF. While the news broadly mentioned KNLA and joint forces, specific details about the forces involved in the joint efforts were not disclosed.

This recent battle follows previous attempts to seize Kawkareik in November and December of the previous year and subsequent clashes in March and October of the current year. The intensified attacks coincide with the military council’s widespread opening of military fronts, providing an opportunity for KNLA and alliance forces to launch their offensive.

In another development, Sasakawa, President of the Nippon Foundation, arrived in Nay Pyi Taw to address the ongoing armed conflict in Rakhine State. Sasakawa played a role in the verbal agreements of 2018-19 and 2022, aiming to cease armed clashes in Rakhine. The Nippon Foundation, known for its humanitarian efforts, particularly in conflict zones, maintains informal connections with leaders of the Arakan Army. Sasakawa, an independent negotiator, seeks to mediate and negotiate the complex armed conflict in Rakhine State. The dynamics of this conflict differ from previous engagements, indicating significant military and political goals on the part of the Arakan Army.

The third major development is the assassination of U Than Tun, Chairman of the New National Democratic Party founded by U Thein Nyunt. U Thein Nyunt, a former leader of the NLD Party, co-founded the New National Democratic Party after the 2010 election. Following the 2021 military coup, he became a council member of the State Administrative Council but retired from this position last year. The assassination of U Than Tun suggests a targeted attack due to the party’s collaboration with the military council. Such political assassinations may contribute to a concerning trend of terrorism in Myanmar’s political landscape, targeting individuals not affiliated with armed organizations and holding diverse perspectives.