Following the capture of Kawlin, the first district-level town seized in the country by resistance forces since the 2021 coup, Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and People’s Defense Forces (PDFs) are eyeing Katha, another administration centre in Sagaing Region. State Administration Council (SAC) is bolstering its forces and installing heavy weapons to defend the town, located on the banks of the Irrawaddy River—the only major route to access it. Due to Katha’s strategic location, SAC cannot afford to lose it. KIA and PDF have been capturing junta positions in six other townships of Sagaing Region since joining the 1027 Operation, which began on October 27.
KNG spoke with a political analyst requesting anonymity for their perspective on what will happen in the coming days.
Can you tell us what’s happening on the ground in Katha?
After resistance groups seized Kawlin, the Burma army set up many outposts around Katha. They established checkpoints inside the town and regularly patrol it. They placed an artillery unit in Ward 5 and on a hill near Zayyar Buddhist Monastery. LIB 309, based in Katha, fires shells every night. A Burma army camp, situated on Kyauk Phyu Mountain between Katha and Indaw townships, frequently fires artillery shells. Another artillery unit is placed in the 400-meter Football Stadium in Katha, and another near the General Aung San Memorial Pillar. The Burma army fires artillery shells around Katha day and night. Some soldiers are also stationed in Mang Lae Buddhist Monastery.
How many soldiers are present in Katha?
The Burma army sent military troops from Katha to Kawlin when the clash was occurring in Kawlin. After it fell, they recalled their troops back to the town. The day after Kawlin was captured, it sent troops to Katha three times in two transport helicopters. Currently, there are more than 500 soldiers in the town, including LIB 309, which is based there, and troops from LID 77.
Why is the Burma army concentrating its forces in Katha?
Katha is situated between Sagaing Region and Kachin State, and is the main water route to Shwegu and Bhamo in Kachin State. SAC needs the Irrawaddy River to send food rations, weapons, and soldiers. Katha is a strategic position for the regime. If it maintains a solid base in Katha, its military columns can be deployed from the town to Kawlin, Wontho, and Htigyaing.
Is it possible for resistance groups to capture Katha?
If resistance forces want to seize Katha, I think they can because they have already seized Kawlin, which is not far from Katha. Currently, they are trying to take Htigyaing, and the next target will be Wontho. If they seize all these towns around Katha, it’s easy to capture it because SAC will be surrounded. However, if the junta maintains control over Katha, it can prepare for a strong defense and send troops to patrol the surrounding areas around the township.
Are there any clashes currently happening in Katha?
There have been no clashes in Katha in recent days, but SAC is shelling around the town every night, which is terrorizing the civilian population. One elderly woman and her grandson were killed by a shell in Katha on the evening of November 13. Since the end of October, the regime has imposed a curfew.
If KIA and PDF seize Katha, can they capture all of Sagaing Region?
In my opinion, yes, this is possible if the resistance forces can take Katha. It will prevent the SAC from sending its troops to the upper Sagaing Region except by airlifting them, and that’s why its determined to defend the town.