HEAVY CLASHES between Myanmar junta troops and Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) together with members of People’s Defence Force (PDF) civilian resistance group raged for seven hours till 5 p.m. today (July 30) just across the border from Tak province and fighting is still continuing, TV Channel 7 and Matichon newspaper said.
Hundreds of Myanmar troops moved to capture a Karen settlement near the Thai border but in doing so they had to cross from one village to another where the Karens and their allies ambushed them. Fierce fighting ensued with the Myanmar side firing 81mm and 120mm medium to heavy mortars at the Karens who fought back with heavy machine guns.
This is the second day of the fighting and today’s seven hours of fierce clashes had led to many deaths and serious injuries on both sides and is still continuing.
Impacted by the fighting less than a kilometre away from the border are two villages, Baan Wale Tai and Baan Morger Thai, in Wale subdistrict of Popphra district, with the villagers terrified by the sound of the gunfire and are preparing to evacuate.
Around 188 Karens crossed over to the Thai side for temporary refuge and were sheltered at Wat Moker Tai temple. Thai troops have closed the road to between Baan Wale Tai and Baan Morger Thai with no traffic allowed.
The Myanmar junta sent in a large number of troops to decisively seize the Karen base opposite Thailand’s Phop Phra and Mae Sot districts. The troops engaged in the fighting are armed with heavy weapons, both artillery and grenade launchers, with hundreds more troops reinforcing them.
Thai security forces expect the clashes to continue and if the situation worsens more refugees will flood into Thailand. The fighting is still continuing amid heavy rain.
On July 1 a Myanmar junta MiG-29 fighter jet strafed Karen insurgent positions across the border from Popphra district nine times and also intruded into Thai air space.
A couple of Thai F-16 Fighting Falcon jets took to the sky from Wing 4 in Takhli moments after the Myanmar MiG-29 had returned into Myanmar airspace, thus negating the possibility of a mid-air dogfight.
However Prime Minister-cum-Defence Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and air force chief ACM Napadej Dhupatemiya were asked to testify before the House Armed Services Committee about this intrusion. They were to be asked why the Thai side had failed to send an alert warning to the Myanmar side immediately after the Russian-made jet had popped up on a radar in the border area or to have the US-made fighter jets promptly intercept the intruder.
Smoke from the gunfire just across the border from Tak province. Photos: Matichon