DKBA Troops Seize Three Pagodas Pass

Irrawaddy news, 08 Nov 2010,

A policeman and a junta soldier were killed and at least five government offices were burned down when troops from Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) Battalion 907 seized Three Pagodas Pass Township on Monday morning, according to border sources.

Three Pagodas Pass, which is opposite Sangkhlaburi District in Thailand’s Kanchanaburi Province, was attacked by DKBA troops from different directions and government troops were unable to defend the town, which fell to the DKBA assault around noon. The attack came shortly after a similar attack took place in Miyawaddy Township on the border with Thailand’s Tak Province.

DKBA troops burned down the offices of the electric supply department, the forestry department, the special branch police department, a broadcast transmission tower and the post and telegraph department. The DKBA troops also burned a government gas station and seized the public hospital.,

No civilian casualties have been reported, though three Thai army soldiers were wounded and admitted to Sangkhlaburi hospital after a rocket landed in their base, which is close to the area of fighting between the DKBA and Burmese military government forces.

DKBA troops arrested five members of the village guard militia as well as a number of policemen when they took over the town. Three wounded government soldiers who were in the hospital were arrested, but their fate is unknown, border sources said.

Many residents have fled the town and crossed to the Thai side of the border in fear of futher escalation in fighting if DKBA troops and Burmese army troops clash during the night.

“We heard that they are waiting for orders from the DKBA in Myawaddy and may attack the government army base in town tonight,” according to Thu Rein, a resident in town.

“They have taken up positions in different parts of the town and have seized two weapons, but they have caused no problems for resident civilians apart from the general consequences of fighting,” he said.

The Three Pagodas Pass is isolated and difficult for the Burmese junta military to quickly reinforce as the area is surrrounded by ethnic armed groups. The DKBA troops have seized all food supplies.

“They hold key points in town and things are now very quiet,” said Lawi Mon, a town resident. “I cannot see any government soldiers or police, but I worry that the town could be destroyed if the attack continues.

“The DKBA troops don’t seem afraid and stand around openly in front of the buildings they have burned. They are not hiding away with their weapons in their base like the government troops,” he said, adding that the government troops just stayed in the base as the DKBA destroyed government property.

Many of about 3,000 Burmese workers who cross the border into Sangkhlaburi every day for work have taken shelter there in fear of further attacks during the night. Others have taken refuge in territory controlled by the New Mon State Party.

Sources said troops from the Karen National Liberation Army, the military wing of the Karen National Union, have deployed near the town and are ready to provide support to the DKBA troops if needed.

The DKBA battalion had planned to attack the town during the election on Sunday, and many people stayed away from polling stations fearing an attack. The attack was delayed until DKBA troops made an assault in Miyawaddy, the sources said.

The attack by DKBA battalion 907, which is a part of DKBA Brigade 5 led by Col Saw Lah Pwe, also known as Na Kham Mwe, has come as a result of mounting tension between Burmese junta forces and DKBA Brigade 5, which was the only DKBA unit to reject the Burmese military governments Border Guard Force plan (BGF). Brigade 5 is thought to have around 1,000 troops.

The rest of the DKBA troops, estimated to be at least 5,000 in number, joined the Burmese government’s BGF plan, which entails putting their forces under the Junta’s military command as part of the one unified military force stipulated by the 2008 Constitution.

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