Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Karen rebels in a 15-member squad equipped with only automatic rifles and the rain ambushed a government battalion with more than 100 troops on Tuesday, killing nine junta soldiers including the force’s deputy commander and wounding 14 others, the Karen National Liberation Army has said.
Having received advanced warning from villagers of the approach of the junta’s 110-strong 62nd Infantry Battalion, the KNLA 22nd Battalion had lain in wait in the mountainous terrain of central Karen State, south of Paikyone Township.
Their attack killed seven lower-ranking soldiers and deputy field commander Major Tun Min Kyu. Reports said one of the wounded junta soldiers later died.
The KNLA forms the armed wing of the independence movement, the Karen National Union (KNU). The battalion it attacked is under the Burmese Army’s Military Operations Command No. 19 based in Yay Township.
“There was heavy rain and creeks were flooded with torrents of water, which made them difficult to cross,” Pa-an district KNU chairman Padoh Saw Aung Maw Aye told Mizzima. “Moreover, there are no proper roads in this area. We took position and posted lookouts, then ambushed them.”
Fourteen junta troops were wounded and were taken to the nearest military base at Tarlay, he added. Another report said the Burmese Army had used 20 residents from Sayphokhe and Maelarkhe villages as porters to carry the injured to the base.
A military observer based on the border said explosive booby traps set by the Karen guerrillas would have been the reason for the heavy losses to the Burmese battalion, which was carrying heavy weapons.
The ambush resulted in the second heaviest loss this year for junta forces in their battle against the KNU, which is struggling for the right to self-determination in a separate Karen state. In a clash on a highway to Thanphyuzayat Township in Mon State on May 10, the junta lost 13 soldiers and 20 were wounded.
The Karen rebels, strongly supported by local people, had in advance received information of junta troop movements in the Paikyone area, Padoh Saw Aung Maw Aye said.
Nine Burmese Army battalions and junta ally, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), which broke away from the KNLA in 1994, are competing with KNLA forces for control of the area.
Observers said the purpose of the unusual Burmese troop movements in this area controlled by the KNLA’s 6th Brigade was to undermine the rebels’ income.
The junta has deployed four more battalions under the command of Light Infantry Division No. 77 in Kyarinnseikgyi near Three Pagodas Pass since the middle of last month, Thai-border-based Mon News Agency editor-in-chief Nai Kasaw Mon said.