Junta jets dropped bombs on the home of a Karen ethnic army commander

Raid appears to breach ceasefire between group and military
By RFA Burmese
2023.01.23
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Junta jets dropped bombs on the home of a Karen ethnic army commander Myanmar junta forces conducted an airstrike on the residence and office of Major Saw A Wan, a top commander in the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army, near the Thai border on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023.
Credit: Citizen Journalist

Myanmar’s junta jets dropped bombs over the weekend on the home of the leader of an ethnic Karen group that has not been fighting the military, appearing to violate an 8-year-old ceasefire, local residents told Radio Free Asia.

The strike destroyed the home of Major Saw A Wan, commander of  the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army’s, or DKBA, Tactical Operation Command, but he and his family were away at the time. It also destroyed a nearby guest house, high school and two employee quarters, the residents added.

No one was killed in the early Saturday bombing, but one DKBA soldier was reportedly injured. 

The strike comes despite the group being a signatory to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, signed under the previous military government of Thein Sein in 2015 with various ethnic armed rebel armies. 

Colonel Saw Sein Win, chief of staff at the DKBA, told RFA that his group is neutral and hasn’t been involved in helping resistance to junta rule since the February 2021 coup. 

"We are neutral. We maintain a close relationship with the military. On the other hand, we have occasional contact with the Karen National Union,” the colonel said, alluding to one of the major Karen rebel groups in Myanmar. “Despite our close ties and all the diplomacy, this (attack) happened, and we were surprised.``

He also suggested that the attack could have been carried out by a separatist faction from the DKBA, saying the group saw fighters defecting to the military last year. 

“They still have all the DKBA uniforms. They were fighting with the military wearing our uniforms, we would normally be accused of being involved in anti-junta activities,” he said. “Arm badges can also be bought at shops as well.”

ENG_BUR_AirRaid_01232023.2.jpeg
A witness close to the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army said the Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023, attack by Myanmar junta aircraft on the residence and office of the DKBA’s Major Saw A Wan lasted 15 minutes and included bombs and machine guns. Credit: Citizen journalist

The DKBA was one of the groups that responded to the military’s peace talks invitation in the coup’s aftermath, with DKBA Commander-in-Chief General Saw Steel personally attending the talks with coup leader and Myanmar’s de facto leader Min Aung Hlaing. 

Analysts told RFA that the attack was a unilateral breach of peace between the ruling military and the DKBA.

One eyewitness close to the DKBA said that the attack lasted almost 15 minutes.

“All I could see was the light. I could not see the jets nor did I hear their sound. The guest house, which was about a hundred feet away from his house, collapsed and was destroyed,” the witness said. “The bomb didn’t hit his home directly but its stairs and handrails were cut in half just by blisters of the bombs.” 

Since the coup, the military has been frequently conducting airstrikes on areas where ethnic armed groups and anti-junta People’s Defense Force militias are located.

Military spokesperson General Zaw Min Tun did not respond to RFA’s telephone request for comments on the attack today, and neither the junta nor the DKBA have released official information on the strike. 

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