Karen forces seize junta base on Thai-Myanmar border

Anti-junta fighters from the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and its allies assaulted and overran a military base at the Thai-Myanmar border on Tuesday morning, a spokesperson from the group’s political wing, the Karen National Union (KNU), has confirmed.

The battle took place on the Salween River, around 16 miles east of Hpapun town in Karen State, according to Padoh Mahn Mahn, the KNLA’s spokesperson for Brigade 5, whose territory comprises Mutraw District, referred to as Hpapun Township in Burmese. 

The KNLA alliance initiated an attack on the base at around 6am. The military responded with artillery and light weapons fire. 

The battle went on for nearly an hour before the resistance forces were able to take the Mei Khar Hta post, which they set alight while capturing weapons and ammunition, according to a statement released today by the Force for Federal Democracy, an armed group under the command of the publicly mandated National Unity Government. 

The statement also noted that one KNLA fighter was killed and three were injured during the battle, but the exact number of junta casualties was still unknown. 

Location of Mei Khar Hta outpost

The fighting forced some locals living on the banks of the Salween to flee their homes and civilians claimed to have seen junta aircraft hovering over the area on Tuesday afternoon.  

Some 70 soldiers from the military’s Infantry Battalion 19 were stationed at the base, which was the junta’s largest on the river, according to an article published by the KIC (Karen Information Center) news service which cited a KNLA officer.

Locals claimed that Myanmar army soldiers at the site often fired their weapons from the base towards ferries and motor boats passing by on the Salween.

KNLA forces in Brigade 5-controlled territory have previously attacked and captured military bases on the Thai-Myanmar border, where military troops have been deployed since 1995.

The KNLA and its allies seized the Kyauk Nyat base, a frontline outpost on the Salween, in April of last year. A KNLA colonel, who was also serving as a tactical commander, was killed in the fight. 

Serious battles have been breaking out in territory controlled by the KNLA’s Brigade 5 since the February 2021 coup. Junta forces on the ground have faced major losses, and the military have deployed air power and heavy artillery, often causing severe casualties among local civilians.

A total of 178 clashes occurred between the junta and KNLA forces in Mutraw in February alone, according to a report by the KNU administration in the district. Military-allied Border Guard Forces have also fought alongside the junta during these battles.

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