Fourteen members of the resistance were killed in a Myanmar army ambush in northeastern Sagaing Township on Wednesday morning, according to sources close to them.
They said a junta commando unit was responsible for the deaths of nine fighters from Sagaing District People’s Defence Force’s (PDF) Battalion 3 and two from Battalion 1, along with the three men from the Pyin Oo Lwin People’s Defence Team from neighbouring Mandalay Region.
The fatal attack occurred near the village of Ta Laing, 24 miles north of Sagaing town, located in the region by the same name. The deputy commanders of both battalions were reportedly among the casualties.
“The troops who went ahead too quickly and lost contact with us got captured by the enemy, who immediately started shooting them,” Battalion 1 commander Yakkha said.
The bodies of the slain fighters were burnt by the junta forces on the Byuha Road, which links Sagaing town to the highway connecting the city of Shwebo with Singu Township in Mandalay Region.
Pro-junta propaganda channels on social media platform Telegram shared photos of the bodies with badges identifying them as part of the Sagaing PDF, along with missiles, guns, bullets and communication devices.
Just three days earlier, the same military unit that carried out the attack in Ta Laing ambushed a PDF base in Kindaw village, also in Sagaing Township, killing a total of 17 members of the group and three civilians and seizing several weapons.
Both Kindaw and Ta Laing are located on the western banks of the Ayeyarwady River, which separates them from Mandalay Region. Several resistance forces operate in the area, relying heavily on handmade weapons to fight the military.
The junta commando force responsible for the assaults is known as “Lin Yone,” which means Eagle in Burmese, members of the resistance said. The group was recently honoured and presented with cash rewards at a formal dinner at Mandalay Palace, which serves as a military base, with photos from the event posted online by pro-regime sources.
Local resistance forces have previously said that they believe a commando unit of around 30 soldiers has been among the junta troops launching raids on villages along the Ayeyarwady River in Sagaing and Mandalay.
The force in question has been linked to an ambush on Battalions 1 and 8 of the Myingyan District PDF on June 20 that killed five resistance fighters, as well as a June 27 attack on the Monywa District PDF’s Battalion 27 that left four members and two civilians dead.
Yakkha, the commander of Battalion 1 in the Sagaing District PDF said that the assaults mark a shift in the junta’s combat strategy in the region.
“Their military tactics are definitely changing as they are now using a commando force now,” Yakkha said. “It appears they’re employing special military tactics.”
He also described local resistance groups as acting “recklessly” by providing “multiple openings for the enemy to strike.”
“The enemy infiltrated the areas close to the revolutionary groups, rested during the night and worked in the morning while our troops worked at night and slept in the morning,” he commented. “We need to work 10 times harder than the enemy. We need to work hard to find their weaknesses, since this enemy is 100 times stronger than us.”
In a video posted online on Wednesday, former army captain and political prisoner Nay Myo Zin speculated that the military was focusing its attacks on bases believed to have the weakest defences in Sagaing Region in an attempt to raise troops’ morale.
“These attacks were but desperate attempts by the military council to motivate their troops by letting them attack and take over very small resistance force bases,” he said in the video.