The Karenni Nationalities Defense Force captured a mineral-rich city in northeast Myanmar, the group announced, saying most junta troops fled from checkpoints and camps on Friday, two days before the ethnic army moved in.
Karenni troops captured Mawchee city in Kayah state on Sunday with no subsequent battle, a spokesperson told Radio Free Asia. The city in Hpasawng township is home to one of the world’s largest tin ore and tungsten mines.
“The entire city of Mawchee has been captured and controlled by the Karenni revolutionary forces,” he said. “The military junta camps in Mawchee are in a state of retreat. We learned that junta troops retreated around the night of Jan. 26.”
Because there was no battle, residents did not have to flee, he added.
Banyar, the director of the Karenni Human Rights Group, said residents had been warned that if the junta abandoned camps in towns and villages, it often bombarded them with aerial and artillery attacks.
“The junta army always does two things when they abandon these towns and villages. One is to burn the villages and the other is to shoot and destroy them with heavy weapons and airstrikes,” he told RFA on Sunday. “We are worried about that. People are well aware of this situation and they are making the necessary arrangements.”
RFA has not been able to contact residents of Mawchee because phone and internet access have been cut off.
RFA called Kayah state’s junta spokesperson Myint Kyi to learn more about the situation, but calls went unanswered on Sunday.
Karenni joint forces have been carrying out Operation 1111 since Nov. 11, 2023. As part of the operation, the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force formed alliances with the Karenni Army, Urban Guerrilla Forces, and People’s Defense Forces from Loikaw, Moebye, and Demoso in Kayah and southern Shan state. Together, the joint forces have been carrying out attacks on junta camps.
Since Nov. 11, the forces have captured 20 camps in Loikaw, Demoso, and Moebye, according to a Karenni Nationalities Defense Forces statement on Jan. 28.
Battles to occupy cities are likely to continue this year, according to political analyst Than Soe Naing.
“People are worried about the ceasefire in northern Shan state [breaking down]. Although it seems like the [military] movement in other areas across Myanmar will be calm, the Kachin Independence Army has captured Mabein city [in Shan state],” he said. “As for Rakhine state, Pauktaw has been completely seized. So the developments of the spring revolution and its momentum continue.”
The Three Brotherhood Alliance and junta signed a ceasefire on Jan. 11 under Chinese pressure during a meeting in Kunming to end clashes over territory in northern Shan state. However, other ethnic armed groups have continued fighting elsewhere in the country, forcing junta troops to abandon five cities nationwide.
Shan state’s Mabein, Chin state’s Paletwa, Rakhine state’s Pauktaw, and Kayah state’s Ywar Thit and Mawchee have all been captured since the ceasefire was announced.
According to data compiled by RFA, ethnic armed groups and People’s Defense Forces have attacked and seized 36 cities across the country from the military junta since October 2023.
Junta chief Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing said Friday that groups should not take up arms and ignore the law in demanding self-determination, self-governance, and the establishment of self-administered regions.
He told a meeting of the junta’s stability, law, and order committee these rights can only be given with the approval of parliament.
It has been nearly three years since the junta seized power from a democratically elected government in a Feb. 1, 2021 coup. The junta has repeatedly delayed plans to call national elections.
Translated by RFA Burmese. Edited by Mike Firn.