Myanmar Regime Continues to Shell Karen State Border Town

By The Irrawaddy 27 December 2021

The Myanmar junta launched fresh artillery attacks in Karen State’s Lay Kay Kaw new town near the Thai border in the wee hours on Monday, amid intensified fighting between the regime and the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) as more junta troops advanced to nearby Mae Htaw Talay.

Internally displaced people (IDPs) in Palu and Mae Htaw Talay villages told The Irrawaddy that the sounds of heavy weaponry could be heard from 4 a.m. Monday.

“We heard at least 40 rounds of artillery shelling and the fighting is still going on,” a local witness said at noon on Monday. “We could not sleep last night and we heard more [junta] troops have arrived in the area,” the local resident said.

Fighting has been going on at the southeastern border for two weeks, since junta troops raided Lay Kay Kaw on Dec. 14 alleging that democracy activists and members of People’s Defense Force (PDF) civilian resistance groups were hiding there.

Following reported heavy fatalities among regime troops in clashes with a combined force of KNLA and PDF fighters, the Myanmar junta conducted air strikes on Lay Kay Kaw and surrounding areas near the Thai border from Thursday to Saturday.

The military’s intensified offensives have displaced more than 10,000 villagers, with nearly half fleeing to Thailand.

Some of the mortar shells fired at Lay Kay Kaw. Myanmar junta forces used heavy weaponry in Lay Kay Kaw and surrounding areas on Dec. 25. / KIC

According to local Thai authorities in Tak, as of Sunday, 5,358 villagers from Myanmar had crossed the Moei River seeking refuge on Thai soil, The Bangkok Post reported.

As the clashes along the border escalate, reports of stray bullets and grenades from across the border have also increased in Thailand, particularly in Tak province’s Mae Sot and Phop Phra districts.

Thai Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha said his government would warn Myanmar combatants not to let the conflict spill over into Thai territory.

Over the weekend, security authorities in Mae Sot district beefed up forces on the border and deployed field doctors to help refugees in need of medical treatment, but with strict COVID-19 measures in place.

Meanwhile, thousands more people are internally displaced and stranded on the Moei River bank on the Myanmar side with humanitarian assistance needed on a large scale.

The junta raids and clashes followed the junta’s accusation that the Karen National Union (KNU), Myanmar’s oldest revolutionary force, was supporting and sheltering striking civil servants and anti-regime armed resistance groups. The KNLA is the armed wing of the KNU.

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