Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – A junta artillery battery stationed on a hill north of Three Pagodas Pass in Mon State fired on positions taken by renegade former junta-aligned Karen forces this morning, according to sources with the splinter group.
Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) splinter group forces had last night claimed control over the strategic border crossing between Burma and Thailand to the east of Burma’s former capital of Rangoon and opposite Thailand’s Kanchanaburi province. The claim came after DKBA Battalions 906 and 907, led by Lieutenant Saw Naw Tayar, launched a major offensive against Burmese troops stationed at the pass late yesterday morning, gaining control of their objective in course of the afternoon.
State Peace and Development Council (SPDC, the junta’s name for itself) artillery battery No. 313 fired cannons from their position on Nagar hill, three miles (five kilometres) north of the town to the DKBA position between Taitayar monastery and Taungwaing pagoda.
“The 88 millimetre shells landed on our positions but we have not yet returned fire. We are waiting. The shells landed near Taungphayar and inside the town. But the salvoes have fallen silent now,” DKBA Battalion 906 commander Saw A One, who led the invasion force and occupied the town, told Mizzima. He also said that his battalion and the 907th led by Lieutenant Saw Naw Tayar were standing by.
Karen National Union (KNU) spokesman Pado Saw Hte Nay from Brigade 6 added that: “SPDC [junta] forces [also] fired on our positions … from artillery positions. The shells are very large so the people are scared. The junta’s battalion 283 did not come down yet. They are still in position on the hillock. They might come down after clearing the area with heavy weapons fire. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Moreover, further fighting broke out at Ywathit village, about two miles (3.5 kilometres) northwest of Three Pagoda Pass between 150 DKBA soldiers and about 180 troops from the junta’s Infantry Battalion (IB) 405 from Chaungsone, arriving to reinforce the other junta units. He said KNU Brigade 6 and Battalion 16 would fight the junta troops if necessary.
New Mon State Party (NMSP) foreign relations office chief Nai Yar Zar, in the Thai-Burmese border town of Sankhlaburi, confirmed the clashes between DKBA forces and IB 405.
Nai Yazar said two male civilians and two monks injured in the Three Pagodas Pass clashes were admitted to Sankhlaburi hospital. The villagers were fleeing the conflict zone, the NMSP relief committee said, and that the group was going there to assist them.
Saw A One told Mizzima yesterday afternoon that DKBA Battalions 906 and 907 occupied Three Pagodas Pass. The forest department, Police Special Branch, telegraph offices and a television relay station were set on fire and a combined force of about 150 soldiers from the junta’s IB 283 led by Myat Tun Aye and IB 405 were being trapped in their positions, he said.
In reaction to the battles, Pao Liberation Organisation chairman Colonel Khun Okkar gave his views on the attacks, the reasons behind them, and who took part.
“The DKBA units led by Colonel Saw La Pwe, also known as Bo Moustache, had rejected the junta’s offer of transforming its army into junta-controlled Border Guard Force. Similarly, those who were forced to accept this offer are discontented too, Khun Okkar said. “So, these combined forces took advantage of the time of election day when the junta forces were preoccupied with their security duty for the national elections, to launch this invasion of occupying the town.”
A local resident from Three Pagodas Pass with close connections to Thai authorities said about 1,600 war refugees were at a Thai school in Phayargone in Sankhlaburi.
“They are still at Phayargone in Thailand … The remaining are workers and they are not regarded as refugees. They are staying at their workplaces … homeless people who have nowhere to go have settled at the Thai school,” he told Mizzima.
Similarly, more than 6,000 refugees had arrived at Kyandaw village, south of the town, and were being helped by Mon relief teams, KNU Major Saw Hte Nay said.
“There are more than 1,000 refugees on Thai territory and some are in Kyonetawchaung, Kyoneekway Ywathit [in Burma], west of Three Pagodas Pass. Nearly 6,000 refugees are in Kyandaw now”, he said.
Thai authorities have ban all access to Phayagone, a source said.
The clashes in Three Pagodas Pass have almost paralleled fighting that broke out yesterday morning in Myawaddy, Karen State between junta forces and DKBA units led by Bo Kyaw Thet from Brigade 5 led by Bo Moustache.
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