BANGKOK – Ethnic Karen guerrillas said they captured a Myanmar army base on Tuesday near the border with Thailand, representing a morale-boosting action for those opposing the military's takeover of the country's civilian government in February.
Myanmar’s military staged airstrikes several hours later on villages in territory controlled by the Karen forces, according to a guerrilla spokesman, a senior Thai official and a relief worker.
The fighting took place three days after a meeting of Southeast Asian leaders to try to hammer out a plan to restore peace in Myanmar, where the military government has attempted to suppress widespread opposition to its rule through the use of lethal force. More then 700 protesters and bystanders have been killed by security forces, according to several detailed estimates. The junta's figure is about one-third of that.
A spokesman for the Karen National Union, the minority’s main political group seeking greater autonomy from Myanmar’s central government, said its armed wing attacked the base at 5 a.m. and burned it down just after dawn.
Casualty figures were not yet known, the KNU’s head of foreign affairs, Padoh Saw Taw Nee, said in a text message. There was no immediate comment from Myanmar's military government.
The KNU, which controls territory in eastern Myanmar near the Thai border, is a close ally of the resistance movement against the military coup that ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. Its armed wing is called the Karen National Liberation Army.
Video shot from the Thai side of the border showed flames rising from the government position on the banks of the Salween River amid the sound of heavy gunfire. The river marks the border with Thailand.
Padoh Man Man of the KNLA’s 5th Brigade, which launched the morning attack, said Myanmar’s military carried out airstrikes in the early afternoon, but he did not know how many casualties there were. He described the air raids as a “heinous war crime” and called for the international community to pressure the junta to stop them.