Fighting erupts in border town

Gunfire and explosions have been ringing out this morning from Burma’s border town of Myawaddy after key administrative and military positions were yesterday taken by a Karen army faction.

Burmese soldiers launched an assault on Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) troops, and fighting continues at the time of writing. This morning a grenade landed across the border in Thailand’s Mae Sot, reportedly kiling one and leaving three injured. The main road in Mae Sot that leads to the border has been closed.

“The fighting is really intense now – about five or six people have been killed from heavy weapons’ fire,” said a Myawaddy resident. “We heard the DKBA troops are entering Myawaddy town through Ward 5 [close to the Moei river].”

Reports are emerging that two trishaw drivers close to the Myawaddy market were also killed in the crossfire.

Many locals are said to be fleeing into Thailand after hearing rumours that Burmese troops were recruiting civilians to fight.

“The [Burmese] army is recruiting porters in our area. We are preparing to flee as there are only male in our family,” said one woman. “My husband said he saw two people hit by an [artillery] shell. He wasn’t sure whether they died or not.”

Another man said: “Our house is near to the police station [in Myawaddy]. About three or four [heavy weapon shells] landed at the corner of the street [where the police station is located].”

Fighting had broken out close to the Thai-Burma Friendship Bridge, but had also broken out on the edge of the town. There is also fighting further south along the border in the Three Pagodas Pass region.

According to the head of the DKBA faction, Brig-Gen Na Kham Mwe, around 200 troops who had previously transformed into a Border Guard Force (BGF) had defected to the breakaway group.

Na Kham Mwe spearheaded the revolt against the junta’s demands for a BGF, and now leads a breakaway unit of several thousand troops. The DKBA split from the opposition Karen National Union (KNU) in 1995 and allied itself to the ruling junta, before the mass revolt earlier this year.

The Myawaddy resident said that Na Kham Mwe’s troops had arrived yesterday sporting both DKBA and BGF badges.

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