23 May 2024

Fierce fighting flared up today in Myawaddy township, close to Thailand’s Mae Sot district in Tak province, between anti-junta Karen rebels and Myanmar forces, forcing about 1,200 Myanmar civilians to cross the shallow Moei river, marking the border, and to seek temporary refuge on Thai soil.

Two holding centres in Tha Sai Luad sub-district have been set up to house the displaced people.

Anti-junta Karen rebel forces launched mortar and drone attacks early this morning against Myanmar government forces, holding out in trenches and bunkers near the second Thai-Myanmar friendship bridge in Myawaddy province, just opposite Tha Sai Luad sub-district in Mae Sot district of Thailand’s Tak province.

The attacks triggered an intense firefight, involving mortar duels and exchanges of small arms fire.  No reports are available about casualties on either side. The junta also sent helicopter gunships and MiG-29 fighters to strafe and bomb rebel forces.

The Royal Thai Air Force sent two F-16 jet fighters on patrol mission along the Thai-Myanmar border in Tak and Mae Hong Son provinces, as a warning against intrusion into Thai air space and any possible spill-over of the fighting onto Thai soil.

Fighting also erupted inside Myanmar, close Mae Hong Son province today. Five 60mm and one 120mm mortar shell, allegedly fired from Myanmar, smashed into the border area of Sam Laeb sub-district in Sob Moei district, but no injuries were reported.

It is, however, reported that the rebel forces have built three detention facilities in Myawaddy, to hold about 100 Myanmar government troops captured in recent fighting in Myawaddy province.  About 600 more captured Myanmar troops are being separately held, opposite Mae Ramat district of Tak.

Associate Professor Dulyapak Preecharush, deputy director of the Southeast Asian Study Institute of Thammasat University, said that the fighting in Myanmar has developed into a full-scale war between the junta and rebel forces.

He said that, although the government forces have lost much territory and small towns to the rebel forces, they still are in control of major strategic townships.