23 May 2024

Fighting between Myanmar government and Karen rebel forces continued throughout Saturday night and into Sunday morning, driving more civilians to seek temporary refuge in Mae Sot district of Thailand’s western province of Tak.

The rebels launched mortar and drone attacks against the remnants of Myanmar troops, who have retreated from their last camp in Myawaddy township and are now holding out in trenches and bunkers near the second Thai-Myanmar friendship bridge, about 1.5 km from the Thai border in Tha Sai Luad sub-district, Mae Sot district.

Meanwhile, the Myanmar government responded with air strikes, using Russian-made MiG-29 fighters and helicopter gunships, against rebel positions in Myawaddy. The sound of bomb explosions and automatic gunfire could be heard from the Thai border throughout the night.

Thai security sources say that the warring sides are believed to have suffered casualties in the bombings, but no details were available.

The number of people from Myanmar taking temporary shelter in holding centres in Ban Wang Takhien in the past few days has risen to about 2,000. Thai security officials expect more to flee across the border into Thailand if the fighting continues to escalate.

Myawaddy township, a major hub for cross-border trade between Thailand and Myanmar, is now under the control of the Karen National Union.

Reinforcements have been sent by the government to recapture the township, but their advance has been stalled by rebel forces using ambushes and other guerrilla tactics.