Battle erupts on northern Myanmar university campus

More than 130 staff and students are detained and evacuated by rebels who attacked junta troops on campus.
By RFA Burmese
2024.02.28
Battle erupts on northern Myanmar university campus Opposition forces attacked a camp belonging to Myanmar junta troops on the campus of Kalay University, shown in this undated photo, on Feb. 26, 2024.
(Kale University via Facebook)

A battle erupted on a university campus in northern Mynamar’s Sagaing region earlier this week as ethnic Kachin and Chin fighters attacked junta troops based on the property, prompting the rebels to detain and eventually evacuate more than 130 civilians trapped in the crossfire, residents and fighters told Radio Free Asia.

Fighters from the Kachin Independence Army, the Chin National Front and local People’s Defense Force members attacked a junta camp on the Kalay University campus, in Kale township, on Monday. 

They had to retreat from the campus after reinforcements for junta troops arrived, an official from local militia group Kalay-Kabaw-Gangaw said. That’s when the students and staff were moved, he told RFA Burmese.

“We moved them to places where they were safe from flying bullets, so they didn’t get hurt during the battle. That’s it,” he said.

A PDF member who wanted to be anonymous for his safety concerns said some of the students and staff were interrogated, but everyone was held in a way that allowed them to keep their dignity and rights.

“We didn’t arrest them,” he said. “We just kept them for a while.”

Heavy artillery from junta forces the following day, on Tuesday, left four civilians in the area dead, local residents told Radio Free Asia.

Junta-affiliated newspapers on Wednesday reported that junta troops saved 285 teachers and students from being captured by PDF forces. There was no mention of the 130 people who were detained and evacuated by anti-junta forces.

Junta troops on campus

A PDF member from Kale township who didn’t want to be named for security reasons said that the joint rebel forces attacked a junta checkpoint at the university’s entrance because junta troops were demanding money from trucks and passenger cars.

“The primary motivation for our attack on the university was the presence of occupation of junta’s soldiers in the school campus,” the PDF member said. “They have been there for three years since the coup d’état,” in February 2021.

Also on Monday, the Chin National Front and local PDFs attacked the Ko Mai police station in Khaikam city in Chin state, which is adjacent to the campus of Kale University, according to a PDF official.

Locals said the heavy artillery that was fired continuously on Tuesday was in retaliation for the attack on the police station.

Residents said that there has been intense fighting between the junta’s forces and local PDFS in Kale and in surrounding villages over the last week.

The Kale District PDF said in a statement on Monday that residents should evacuate as soon as possible ahead of an expected increase in fighting with junta forces in the coming days.

Residents said some people have been hiding in their own homes and bunkers and placing sandbags outside.

A local resident who didn’t want to be named said junta troops have been shooting people walking on the street and also shooting into homes with light and heavy weapons.

Translated by Kalyar Lwin. Edited by Matt Reed and Malcolm Foster.

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