Mae Sot, Thailand
April 22, 2009
One Karen National Liberation Army soldier was wounded by a land mine this afternoon as his unit made its way through dense jungle and the pitched battle for his base camp entered its 10th day.
Wah Lay Kee camp, just over the Thai border, is home to the KNLA’s 201st brigade of its sixth brigade region, to the south of the Thai border town of Mae Sot.
Today the Burma Army and units from its allied militia, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, held back, after suffering heavy casualties from land mines and jungle booby traps during the past week.
From high ground they shelled areas of jungle around Wah Lay Kee in their relentless pursuit to eliminate small bands of KNLA guerilla fighters who have so far held off a major assault that could sound the death knell for its last major base in the sixth brigade region.
Colonel Nerdah Mya, eldest son of the late General Bo Mya, said heavy weaponry had been employed throughout the day.
More than five 81mm shells dropped near KNLA troops, but they suffered no casualties. Troops of Burma’s ruling military junta, the State Peace and Development Council, also strafed areas with a .50 calibre machine gun.
Colonel Nerdah described the situation at the tenuous base camp as such: “They have high ground, we have high ground and in between we have guerilla fighters.
“There are a lot of booby traps and land mines, Wah Lay Kee is a real war zone.”
He said the SPDC was maintaining a base camp about five miles from Wah Lay Kee on high ground, and today did not make the deep forays into KNLA territory that have marked the past week. “That’s because of the casualties they’ve taken so far because of land mines,” he said.
Yesterday was relatively quiet around the camp, where there is no traditional front line, but rather a zone through which movement in any direction could be life threatening.
So far during this battle for the KNLA base camp seven soldiers from a combined SPDC/DKBA force have been killed and 33 wounded.
They took no casualties today.
One KNLA soldier has also been killed and, with today’s incident, four wounded
since April 12.
The combined Burma Army and DKBA force of about 250 men has used scores of mortars, both 69mm and 81mm.
Tuesday afternoon at about 3pm a commander at Wah Lay Kee said the latest bombardment had occurred about 25 minutes earlier and the situation “is not good, they are attacking us every day”.
The KNLA soldiers have long been expecting this push and have made preparations.
The whole area is live with booby traps and land mines and Karen National Union vice president David Thackrabaw confirmed a few days ago that the KNLA had been making its own Claymore directional mines, primarily a defensive weapon but deadly to a range of 250 metres.
KNLA troops were resupplied this morning.
Crossing the border for either soldiers or refugees is at the moment almost impossible, the Thai Army having sealed the border with checkpoints surrounding nearby villages and regular patrols maintaining a close watch on vehicles.