Kawkareik and Kaw Bein: Retreat of Revolutionary Force

Myanmar Spring Chronicle – April 28 Scenes
MoeMaKa, April 29, 2024

Kawkareik and Kaw Bein: Retreat of Revolutionary Force

When Operation 1027 was launched by the AA, Kokang, and Ta’ang Palaung armed groups in northern Shan State, the KNL, DKBA breakaway group, and PDF armed forces simultaneously attacked the town of Kawkareik as part of the military operations in Karen State.

The armed forces of the KNU, DKBA, and PDF managed to enter and occupy parts of Kawkareik but failed to control the entire town, leading to its recapture by the military council nearly six months later. The military council’s media outlets propagated that the town was safe for residents to return to, encouraging hundreds who had fled to come back.

The reasons behind the military council’s successful recapture of Kawkareik have not been disclosed by the armed groups. It is estimated that the military council aimed to regain control of Myawaddy, which had recently been lost, by not only providing manpower but also deploying armored tanks and reinforced military forces. It appears that the revolutionary armed forces retreated from Kawkareik to focus on halting the military council’s advance towards Myawaddy.

Despite months of attacking Kawkareik, the revolutionary forces were unable to capture IB-97, connected to the town, thus failing to gain full control of Kawkareik.

Kawkareik, located on the Indu-Myawaddy Asia road, became distanced from the main road after the construction of the Asia Road. Nonetheless, it remained significant as the headquarters of Kawkareik Township, prompting the KNU and revolutionary armed groups to attempt its capture.

In the initial weeks of the attack, many houses in Kawkareik were burned down, and hundreds to thousands more were destroyed during the prolonged fighting. Typically, the military council did not allow fires to be extinguished, whether caused by artillery or other reasons. This led to the conclusion that every attempt by revolutionary forces to capture a city results in the destruction of urban areas and homes. The military council uses this destruction as a deterrent against revolutionary attacks.

Following the military council’s announcement that Kawkareik residents could return, images of residents returning to the town with motorcycles and cars were published, aiming to portray Kawkareik as active again. However, residents found themselves living in tents among the ruins of their homes.

In the upper parts of Sagaing and Magway, many villages have faced similar situations, with residents living in tents and rebuilding temporary homes. Such incidents have been relatively rare in Southern Myanmar, including Karen and Mon States, until the past few months.

Recently, the military council also recaptured Kaw Bein village, located between Karen and Mon States, after about a month and urged residents to return. The villages of Kaw Bein and Dhammatha, primarily inhabited by Mon people, are situated on the banks of the Gyaing River. These areas were attacked by the NMSP (AD), a breakaway faction of the New Mon State Party, and controlled by the military council.

The military council recaptured these areas using waterways and airstrikes, burning villages in the process. This scorched earth tactic is aimed at villages and towns that support revolutionary groups, now affecting Mon and Karen States.

The military council’s objective is to pressure residents into urging revolutionary groups not to engage in battles within their towns and villages to avoid destruction.

Revolutionary armed groups must carefully consider where to prioritize their battles—whether in towns, villages, or strategic military camps and bases. Capturing and holding strategic positions can yield military and strategic benefits, while taking over towns and villages offers tax and political advantages.

However, the military council’s scorched earth response causes significant damage to the local population. Revolutionary forces must weigh these pros and cons to make the most prudent decisions.

 

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