KNLA has joined DKBA Brigade 5 in the fighting, along with troops from the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front.
The Burmese army is continuing to use heavy artillery fire against a breakaway faction of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) and its allies after more than a week of intensifying clashes near the Thai border, according to DKBA and Karen National Union (KNU) sources.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a DKBA officer told The Irrawaddy on Monday that skirmishes between the armed group’s renegade Brigade 5 and Burmese troops have continued amid the shelling in Manerplaw, Kasawah Lay, Nuday, Waw Lay and Phaluu.
Manerplaw is the former headquarters of the KNU, whose armed wing, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) has joined DKBA Brigade 5 in the fighting, along with troops from the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front.
“Refugees in the Mae La Oo refugee camp [in Thailand] could hear the heavy artillery exploding very close to the border between 9:30 and 10:30 last night, but I heard that nobody was injured,” a Karen source said.
“The refugees from the camp are so frightened that they have started to collect their belongings in case they have to flee,” he added.
According to a KNU source, DKBA Brigade 5 has requested reinforcements from the KNLA, which has agreed to send its Brigade 5 to the area.
The source also said that the number of dead or wounded in the latest fighting is still not known, but added that there were reports of injured Burmese troops being carried from the combat zone through the Thai border town of Mae Sot to Myawaddy in Karen State.
Meanwhile, a resident of Phaluu in Karen State’s Kawkareik Township told The Irrawaddy that the DKBA ambushed a Burmese military convoy in the area on Sunday. The attack targeted two trucks carrying ammunition and equipment to Burmese troops on the front line, the source said.
According to a source close to the Burmese army’s Southeast Regional Command, troop reinforcements have been traveling to the front line since late last week.
“About 50 army trucks were sent to Kawkareik Township last Thursday from battalions based in Arakan State. They are under the command of the 44th Infantry Division,” the Burmese military source said.
A KNU officer said that it was unclear if the Burmese army is increasing its troop strength in the area or just sending in replacements.
“We will have to wait and see if they are sending in extra troops to try to wipe us out, or if they’re just rotating their troops. Either way, the fighting will continue,” he said.
Fighting started in the area on Nov. 7, when DKBA Brigade 5, led by Col Saw Lah Pwe, clashed with Burmese troops in Myawaddy on the day of Burma’s first election in 20 years.
The rest of the DKBA, which has long been a key ally of the Burmese junta, has joined a border guard force (BGF) under Burmese military command. According to an unconfirmed report, the regime’s troops have taken control of the Manerplaw area with support from the BGF.