An interview with a political analyst from Katha about the military council’s all-out efforts to prevent the fall of Katha on the Kachin-Sagaing border.
The military council force is trying hard to prevent the fall of Katha Township on the border of Sagaing Region and Kachin State after the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and People’s Defense Force (PDF) captured Kawlin of Kawlin District in Sagaing Region.
According to its geographical location, Katha Township, located on the bank of Ayeyarwaddy River, is the only sea entrance to Kachin State from Sagaing. Katha is also an administrative seat of Katha district.
Katha District is formed with Katha, Htigyaing, Indaw, Banmauk, Wuntho, Kawlin and Pinlebu Townships. In 2018, Kawlin became the administration headquarters for Kawlin district. Kawlin District covers Kawlin, Pinlebu and Wuntho Townships.
Currently, the combined force of KIA and PDF are making town-capture battles in six townships except Katha Township. The fighting between the military council troops and the combined force is also fierce.
Since Katha is a major military hub, the military council has been increasing its strength since early November, and after the capture of Kawlin, heavy weapons are being installed at three locations.
The Kachin News Group (KNG) interviewed a political analyst from Katha about the military council’s all-out efforts for the control of Katha.
Q: Please tell me the current situation of Katha first.
A: After Kawlin was captured, temporary camps began to sit around the town. There are more hiding places in the town. Heavy weapons are installed on the hill of Zeyarkyaung at Ward-5. In addition, Katha-based Light Infantry Battalion- 309 fires heavy shells every night. The army also fires heavy shells from Kyaukphyu mountain between Katha and Indaw. Heavy weapons are installed on a 400-meter sportsground in Katha and the Bogyoke Martyrs ground. The army is firing heavy shells into the four corners. Some troops are deployed at the four-storied monastery established by Man Lae Sayadaw.
Q: What is the current military strength in Katha?
A: At first, the military forces in Katha were sent to the Kawlin battle. The troops in Kawlin were called back. The military deployed troops by two helicopters three times one day after the capture of Kawlin. In addition to the Katha-based LIB-309 fixed unit and the units under the division-77, it may have a total strength of over 500.
Q: Why is the army deploying more troops in Katha? Is Katha a strategic military hub?
A: Katha is located on the border of Sagaing-Kachin. It is the main sea entrance to enter Shwegu and Bhamo in Kachin State. The army mainly uses a water route to send troops, ration and arms to Kachin State. That’s why Katha is an important place to settle down. If they can get a foothold in Katha, it is a really important place because it is in a position where military forces can be deployed along Kawlin, Wuntho and Htigyaing via Katha.
Q: Are the defense forces in a position to capture Katha?
A: They are in a position to capture it. Because they have taken control of Kawlin which is one of towns which are under the district. Now they are trying to capture Htigyaing and then Wuntho. If they can capture everything in a nearby area, it will be easy to capture them. It is difficult for the military council troops in Katha to withdraw if the outposts near this area are captured. On the one hand, the military council has the advantage of being able to be in a defensive position and deploy more troops, if it can control Katha. On the other hand, there are more weaknesses which will put the army in a tight corner.
Q: Now, is fighting taking place?
A: There is no fighting these days. But I don’t know if it’s because the army is in a precautionary position, they are firing heavy weapons every night. So, the people are afraid of heavy weapons. The heavy shells fired by the military hit and killed a woman and her grandchild on 13 November. The night-time curfew was declared in Katha at the end of October.
Q: If the KIA and PDF can capture Katha, can they completely capture the upper Sagaing Region?
A: If the joint force can capture Katha, we can say that they have completely taken control of Sagaing. If Katha was captured, the army would have no way to advance to the upper Sagaing without air support. That is why the army is trying so hard.
Sent by KNG