Myanmar Military Launches Air Raid in Karen State

By The Irrawaddy 27 April 2021

Myanmar’s military launched an air raid in Karen State near the Thai-Myanmar border on Tuesday afternoon, after ethnic armed group the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) attacked a military base on the banks of the Salween River early morning Tuesday.

A jet fighter dropped a bomb and fired a rocket at around 1.30pm in the Dah Gwe area, Phadoh Mahn Mahn, a spokesperson for the KNLA’s Brigade 5, told The Irrawaddy.

“We haven’t heard any reports of civilian casualties yet, as the villagers were already prepared to flee after the incidents last month,” he said, referring to airstrikes launched by the military in March in the area occupied by the KNLA’s Brigade 5.

Tuesday’s airstrike followed an attack by the KNLA’s Brigade 5 on Thaw Le Hta, a military border post opposite Mae Hong Son Province in Thailand, at around 5am on Tuesday. KNLA forces seized the base after 30 minutes of fighting, according to the Karen National Union (KNU), the political wing of the KNLA.

Local residents on the Thai side of the border observed that the base was on fire by 6am. Several casualties were initially reported and at least seven regime soldiers were seen trying to escape, according to reports received by the Karen Information Centre.

“The gunfire was very loud. We could hear and see it clearly. We saw soldiers moving around and bullets landing at the base,” said a Karen woman living on the Thai side of the border.

Phadoh Mahn Mahn said he was unable to confirm details of the attack on the border post.

Villagers on the Thai side of the border have since fled in fear of further airstrikes. Many residents of Mae Sam Laep, a Karen village, have closed their shops and left home, according to local residents.

“Locals, especially women and children, aren’t staying in the village now. My children and I also fled our home. The Thai military have also beefed up security and are sending more troops to the border,” said Naw Paw, a housewife in Mae Sam Laep.

On March 27, the KNLA seized a hilltop outpost in Thi Mu Hta held by the military’s Light Infantry Division 349. The KNLA killed 10 soldiers, including an officer, and took eight soldiers prisoner.

In retaliation, the Myanmar military launched airstrikes and fired heavy artillery in the area, displacing more than 30,000 civilians. Some 3,000 crossed the river to seek refuge in Thailand but many were later forced to return. An estimated 1,000 refugees, mostly elders, the sick, women and children, remain in Thailand, said Karen sources.

The KNU, the oldest ethnic political group in Myanmar, has denounced the military’s Feb. 1 coup and is currently sheltering over 2,000 anti-regime dissidents, including striking civil servants, who have fled the junta’s lethal crackdowns.

Butho Thwee contributed to this report.

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