KNLA Brigade 7 HQ Falls—Thailand Repatriates Refugees

A joint force of Burmese army troops and soldiers of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) seized the headquarters of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) Brigade 7 on Sunday, its most important victory in a weeks-long offensive in the Burmese-Thai border area,

As fighting raged, Karen sources said the Thai authorities are forcibly repatriating refugees who had fled to Thailand.

The fall of the brigade headquarters of the Karen National Union (KNU) military wing was confirmed by Maj Hla Ngwe, joint secretary (1) of the KNU, who said KNLA forces would now resort to “guerrilla tactics.” only one KNLA Brigade 7 base remained intact, he said.

Hla Ngwe said seven soldiers of the attacking force had died when the assault on the Brigade 7 headquarters began on June 19.

KNU sources say the KNLA’s Brigade 7 has also lost three battalion bases—21, 22 and 101. Half of the battalion 202 base has also been taken.
Hla Ngwe said the loss of the KNLA Brigade 7 headquarters could have an effect on the work of Burmese opposition organizations based in the Thai border town of Mae Sot.

About 4,000 Karen refugees have fled to Thailand since the offensive began in the first week of June. Many are being forced by the Thai authorities to return to Burma, according to local sources.

The Karen Women Organization (KWO) issued a statement on Monday saying it was deeply concerned about the repatriation of Karen families from Tha Song Yang in Thailand’s Tak Province, and appealing for international action to help the refugees.

Aid groups, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and Thai authorities are now discussing the problem.

KWO Secretary Dah Eh Kler said: “Thai authorities should at least wait and assess the situation. Forcing these people to return during the rainy season and to places where they still have every reason to fear for their lives is inhuman and a violation of their rights.”

The KWO said the repatriated Karen faced human rights abuses and even death.
“Women are vulnerable to rape if they are forced to return,” said the KWO statement, drawing attention to the rape and murder last week of two young Karen women by Burmese soldiers.

The two women, aged 17 and 18, were caught by Burmese army soldiers in Kwee Law Plo village in Pa-an district when their husbands fled into the jungle. The soldiers, from Infantry Battalion 205, raped and then murdered the women, one of whom was pregnant and the other was the mother of a six-months-old baby.


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