Junta responds with airstrikes after KNU seizes military base on Thai-Myanmar border

The Karen National Union (KNU) announced on Tuesday morning that they had taken over a base belonging to the Myanmar military on the Thai border; hours later, the regime’s forces launched airstrikes against Karen villages in the area.  

Early on Tuesday morning, Brigade 5 of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA)– the armed wing of the KNU– seized and then destroyed the regime base in the Thaw Le Hta area of Karen State’s Mutraw District, known in Burmese as Hpapun. 

The base is located on the Salween River, opposite the Thai village of Mae Sam Laep in Mae Hong Son province. 

Around seven Myanmar soldiers were seen fleeing during the raid by Karen forces, the Karen Information Center reported. 

By around 1pm, the Myanmar army had launched airstrikes in near Dagwe village (Dagwin in Burmese), some 10 miles north of Thaw Le Hta, according to Padoh Mahn Mahn, the KNLA’s Brigade 5 spokesperson. 

“Bombing the area near villages is very concerning for the residents living there,” Padoh Mahn Mahn told Myanmar Now. 

There are also reports of Myanmar military airstrikes on the village of Bwa Der, also in Brigade 5. 

Further details about the air attacks, including those regarding casualties and the numeber of people displaced, were not available at the time of reporting. 

Mae Sam Laep is a strategic point along the Thai-Myanmar border regarding transportation and humanitarian aid delivery, with a river port from which supplies have been sent to internally displaced people (IDPs) in KNU-controlled areas. 

In response to the fighting at Thaw Le Hta on Tuesday, Thai authorities evacuated hundreds of Thai villagers from Mae Sam Laep and closed the port. 

Prior to the fighting on Tuesday, this stretch of the Thai-Myanmar border area along the Salween River had seen heightened military tension. 

On April 23, Myanmar troops stationed across the river from another Thai village– Tha Hta Fung– fired “warning shots” above a civilian boat carrying Thai border patrol officers, the Bangkok Post reported. A Thai government official later described the incident as a “misunderstanding.” 

However, another KNLA Brigade 5 spokesperson, Saw Kler Doh, told the Karen Information Center that Tuesday’s attacks on Thaw Le Hta were carried out in response to regime troops shooting at boats along the Salween River. 

The offensive against the Thaw Le Hta military outpost marks the second time since the February 1 coup that the KNLA’s Brigade 5 has seized a junta base.

On March 27, they took over the army’s stronghold at Thee Mu Hta, killing at least five soldiers and taking at last eight prisoners. 

The junta responded by launching airstrikes at the end of March at Karen villages in Mutraw District (Brigade 5) and in Brigade 3– in Hteepado, Nyaunglebin District, and Maetamat, Shwegyin Township, located in Bago Region. 

These air attacks killed an estimated 20 civilians, wounded more than 40, and displaced tens of thousands, according to the Free Burma Rangers (FBR), a local relief organisation.

Fighting between the KNU’s Brigade 1 and the regime’s armed forces also broke out in Thaton on the morning of April 23. One junta officer was reportedly killed in the fighting, but the number of total casualties could not be confirmed at the time of reporting. 

FBR estimated that there were 24,000 IDPs in the territories controlled by the KNU’s Brigades 1, 3, and 5 in mid-April. 

In and near the KNU’s Brigade 6 area– Dooplaya District, in Karen State– locals have reported that the junta’s troops have increased interrogation of and extortion of money from civilians on the roads. 

Regime soldiers in Dooplaya also violently cracked down on a motorcycle protest on April 24 at Three Pagodas Pass, near the Thai border.


Related Articles

Back to top button