Tuesday, 19 November 2019

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Renewed clashes between junta troops, DKBA faction kill nine

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Renewed clashes involving grenade and rocket attacks broke out between the Burmese Army and a unit of a breakaway Democratic Karen Buddhist Army brigade in Burma’s eastern Karen State on Monday. At least nine junta soldiers were killed and four wounded, DKBA sources said.

Mae-Tao-ClinicAbout sixty troops from Kalohtoobaw strategic command under Colonel Saw Lah Pwe ambushed about 100 junta troops from Burmese Army Infantry Battalion (IB) 299 as they were being sent to reinforce the Burmese Army’s Wawlay outpost in Kawkareik Township, about 20 miles (32 kilometres) west of the Thai-Burmese border town on Myawaddy, a command spokesman said yesterday.

The junta troops and the DKBA group fired rockets and lobbed grenades for more than an hour at each other near Chukalee, Kweethao and Tanawhta villages, more than 30 miles from Myawaddy, the spokesman said.

Although the Karen National Union (KNU) did not join the DKBA faction in the fighting, its troops guarded their flank, KNU Battalion 201 commander Major Kyi Aung said.

More than 200 refugees fled the fresh battles, escaping to Mae Sot on the Thai side of the Moei River opposite Myawaddy, where Mae Tao Clinic social workers gave them food, water and medicines.

“The refugees don’t want to take refuge in the authorities’ temporary camps as they are afraid of being sent back to Burma by Thai authorities when the fighting stops momentarily. They don’t want to repeat the cycle of going back to Burma and fleeing again to Thailand. So they’re taking refuge in their own temporary shelters near farms and beside brooks. Some refugees are taking refuge in relatives’ homes,” Mae Tao Clinic officer Tha Win told Mizzima.

A total 3,555 Burmese have taken refuge in Mae Sot, 758 of whom since November 8 when fighting started between units of the breakaway faction of the DKBA in Myawaddy, Kawkareik and further south along the border at Three Pagodas Pass, Tha Win said. 

Mizzima reported last Friday that Thai authorities near Mae Sot on Tuesday and Wednesday last week had strongly encouraged and in some cases forced hundreds of refugees back into Burma. The practice came despite calls from rights groups that those displaced by the continuing clashes be allowed to stay until the fighting ends, aid workers and researchers working along the Thai-Burmese border said.

Burma’s ruling military junta had sent for reinforcements in Wawlay, near with the area controlled by KNU Brigade 6, according to KNU’s Major Kyi Aung.

The junta has been silent on the fresh fighting.

Karen military officers said that there were casualties on both sides during the armed conflicts between the junta troops and the DKBA fraction in Myawaddy and Kawkareik Townships over the past two weeks, but were unable to provide details.

Fighting broke out in a few locations within Dooplaya District, Burma on November 8, a day after Burma’s first national elections in 20 years, as DKBA splinter battalions seized parts of Myawaddy, across the Moei River from Mae Sot. At least 20,000 villagers crossed into Mae Sot and five Thais were wounded when rocket-propelled grenades landed on the Thai side. At the same time, other breakaway DKBA units took over Payathonsu, a town about 333 miles (535 kilometres) south of Myawaddy near Three Pagodas Pass, sending at least 2,500 refugees into Sangkhlaburi, Thailand.

DKBA Brigade 5 under Saw Lah Pwe, aka Bo Moustache, has refused junta orders to bring his troops into the government’s Border Guard Force (BGF) under Burmese Army command. In the middle of last month, 38 of the splinter group’s members rejoined the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), the armed wing of the KNU, long-time foes of the DKBA, which broke from the KNU and signed a ceasefire deal with the junta in 1994. The KNU refused to sign. 


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