40 Burmese Troops Wounded by Karen Rebels

Irrawaddy news, 16 N0v 2010,

About 40 Burmese government troops who were wounded in a series of attacks by Karen rebels were taken on Monday evening to a military base near Three Pagodas Pass, according to Mon sources in the area.

Thu Rain, a resident in Three Pagodas Pass Township, said that government forces from Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 284 and 270 were attacked twice on Saturday by the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) stationed in Brigade 6, and again on Sunday by breakaway troops from Brigade 5 of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA).

According to a local source, many of the government troops who were wounded had retreated and stepped on landmines after being forced by KNLA forces toward a minefield outside Kyauk Kwe village, some 20 km from Three Pagodas Pass.

The wounded soldiers were put in a truck and taken to the Burmese army base in Three Pagodas Pass. Sources said it is still unknown how many government soldiers were killed in the three attacks.

The sources said government soldiers from LIB 284 conscripted 15 Mon civilians on Saturday from Tha Thein village to work as porters, carrying their supplies and military equipment. The soldiers threatened to burn down the village if the conscripts refused to comply, according to an eye witness. Villagers in the area had earlier refused to work as porters after the Burmese army battalion was attacked by the KNLA on Saturday.

The 15 villagers were forced to carry military supplies to Three Pagodas Pass, a mountainous walk of about four hours.

Seven Burmese army battalions totaling more than 1,000 troops have been deployed near Three Pagodas Pass after the town was seized by DKBA Brigade 5 on Nov 8. The seven battalions are under the control of the Southeast Military Regional Command based in Moulmein in Mon State and Military Operations Command, based in Tavoy, Tenasserim Division.

Local observers said they believed that the Burmese army had brought in reinforcements to launch a major operation against the troops from DKBA Brigade 5 who are currently stationed at a base near the town.

The situation in Three Pagodas Pass was said by observers to be “more stable” since the clashes between the breakaway Karen faction and government troops last week. However, local residents said they still fear further hostilities could break out at any time as the KNLA and DKBA Brigade 5 are coordinating their attacks on the Burmese army in the area.

Clashes between the Karen rebels and Burmese troops have increased near Three Pagodas Pass since Karen soldiers ambushed government reinforcements en route to Three Pagodas Pass.

The Thai army has announced that it will not allow Burmese villagers to cross the border again if hostilities resume. Observers say this policy is a result of a request by the Burmese government to the Thais to deny shelter to Burmese refugees, and a Burmese demand that the Thai authorities pay 100,000 baht (US $3,000) compensation for any Burmese citizen killed on Thai soil.

Meanwhile, further north in Shan State, conflict has resumed on Tuesday between Burmese government forces and the Shan State Army-North.

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