Burma: Intense fighting in a key border town

Burma: Heavy fighting in key border town

UPDATE DAY

In Burma, ethnic Karen rebels launched an attack on a key town near Thailand on Friday, according to residents and local media, with the military junta responding with airstrikes. 

The Karen National Union (KNU) vehemently opposed the coup that brought the generals to power last year and provided shelter for dissidents trying to overthrow the junta.

Its fighters regularly clash with the Burmese army along the Thai border, prompting thousands to flee for safety.

Friday's fighting began at 7 a.m. (1 a.m. GMT) in Kawkareik (south), which is on the road to a major border crossing with Thailand, a resident who requested anonymity told AFP.

Fighting continues, he added, adding that it appears that “armed groups” are targeting administrative buildings.

“We hear heavy gunfire,” he said. he said, adding that three civilians had been killed and at least 15 were hospitalized.

A KNU spokesman told AFP that its fighters were clashing with junta troops in various locations in the city.

The Myanmar military has conducted numerous airstrikes to support its troops on the ground, he added.

Both sides suffered losses, he added, without providing details. 

“We are hiding in the basement,” a resident of the town told AFP. town. 

“Right before my eyes, I saw a salesman killed in an explosion. Other injured people were taken to hospital.”

A resident of a nearby town told AFP that he heard repeated artillery fire.

“ About four fighter jets repeatedly crossed the sky,” he said, requesting anonymity.

“We are scared. Some people are leaving the city for safety.”

Local media reported that KNU fighters clashed with junta troops in several places in the city and many buildings were damaged by air and artillery strikes.

When asked, the junta did not respond to a request for comment.

Burma has more than 20 ethnic rebel groups, many of them hold entire territories in the country's border regions.

Following the coup that overthrew the civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021, dozens of “people's defense forces (PDF) also emerged to fight the junta. 

PDF fighters conducted operations alongside KNU troops. In June, Thailand sent in fighter jets after a junta plane briefly violated its airspace during an operation against fighters.