Myanmar’s military regime is employing massive airstrikes against resistance forces attempting to seize a strategic junta outpost in Karen State near the border with Thailand.
Since Sunday, the armed wings of the Karen National Union (KNU): the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and the Karen National Defense Organization (KNDO), and other Karen resistance groups have been attacking the Ukayit Hta military outpost in Waw Lay in Karen State’s Myawaddy Township.
On Thursday, Myo Thura Ko Ko, a spokesperson for Cobra Column, one of the People’s Defense Forces (PDF) fighting alongside the KNLA and KNDO, told The Irrawaddy that junta airstrikes are intensifying.
“Since the morning, a YAK military jet has attacked nine times, a MIG-29 jet has attacked five times and two MI-17 helicopters have made five trips with reinforcements from Mawlamyine,” he said, speaking at 1pm on Thursday.
Regime jets also entered Thailand’s airspace on Thursday. A video of a junta jet flying over a residential area on the outskirts of Phop Phra District in Thailand’s Tak Province near the Thailand-Myanmar frontier went viral among Thai Facebook users, worrying Thai citizens.
Cobra Column’s Myo Thura Ko Ko said the regime is using massive air and artillery strikes to defend the Ukayit Hta outpost, because the battle has become the center of attention for both the junta and the resistance after five days of intense fighting.
“They [the regime] are defending hard and using a lot of force to save face,” he told The Irrawaddy.
Both sides have reportedly suffered casualties.
On Wednesday, regime forces even used cluster bombs banned under the Geneva Convention during the fighting, which was the most intense of the five days of clashes, according to Cobra Column’s spokesperson. The Irrawaddy was unable to verify independently the junta’s use of cluster bombs.
Ukayit Hta outpost is located at the Falu-Waw Lay-Sukali intersection and is strategically important.
Almost 300 civilians from Waw Lay have fled across the Moei River to Thailand as of Thursday due to the heavy fighting, according to a rescue team in the Thai border town of Mae Sot.
“Thai authorities separated them into groups of about 50 or 60 people and allowed them to stay only on the banks of the Moei River. They are allowed medical assistance but nothing else,” said a Myanmar resident of Mae Sot.
KNLA, KNDO and allied resistance forces captured a military camp in Maw Khee in the KNLA’s Brigade 6 territory, known as Dooplaya District, on March 22. The KNLA and allied PDFs also seized Thay Baw Boe camp on May 18.
Earlier this month, the KNDO and PDFs seized Waw Lay Police Station, where junta troops are based. Five regime soldiers were captured and nine detained resistance fighters were rescued.
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