Government troops prepare KNU offensive

Dec 4, 2007 (DVB), Twelve regiments of the ruling State Peace and Development Council army are heading for Karen National Union territory to launch an offensive, according to a KNU official.

Major Saw Hla Ngwe, secretary of the KNU information committee, told DVB that more than 1,000 soldiers were involved in the offensive into territory held by the KNU's 6th brigade in Kawkareik district, Karen state.

The KNU secretary said that the 1st, 2nd and 3rd KNU brigades were also being targeted.

Three regiments each from the 12th Military Operations Command, 8th Military Operations Command and the 22nd Light Infantry Division are taking part in the offensive, along with troops from the SPDC-backed Democratic Karen Buddhist Army.

Major Saw Hla Ngwe said sporadic clashes had already taken place and claimed that the SPDC and the DKBA had taken casualties.

On 25 November, a DKBA unit lobbed 10 shells into Lan Pha village, where around 50 DKBA men later took up positions.

Further clashes took place in the same area on 26 November when DKBA troops burnt down the rice storage facilities located in the villages north of Lan Pha village. One DKBA soldier was killed and two were seriously wounded in the ensuing battles.

Also on 26 November, KNU troops clashed with the 231st Regiment under the 12th Military Operations Command when the soldiers entered the Dawbla Chedi Hill area. One government soldier was killed and another wounded.

On 27 November, government forces led by DKBA troops and backed up by SPDC units with artillery fire advanced on Nan Shwe Mon village, resulting in one DKBA soldier being killed and another wounded when KNU troops returned fire.

Attempts to contact the DKBA for comment were unsuccessful.

Maj Saw Hla Ngwe said the KNU would make all efforts to counter the SPDC offensive.

"They intruded into our region first, so we had to prepare whatever we can in order to stop them from whatever they intend to do inside our territory, and to have an impact on them so that they will leave the territory in a hurry," he said.

"We have been resorting to all means, including military, to disrupt their road building and supply routes as well as to defend the territory when they come to clear it. For this reason, the casualty rate between them and us is nine to one."

Local residents said that the offensive has forced some Karen villagers along the Thai border to flee into Thailand.

Reporting by Saw Kanyaw

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