By SAW YAN NAING
Despite claims by the Burmese junta that it is seeking talks with Karen rebel leaders, a combined force of Burmese and pro-regime Karen troops has been carrying out a sustained campaign against Battalion 201 of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) since last Thursday.
Karen sources said that clashes broke out on April 16, when around 300 troops from a combined Burmese army and Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) force attacked the KNLA Battalion 201 camp in Valeki, opposite Pho Phra District in Thailand’s Tak Province.
“Their plan is to attack us until they get our base in Valeki. But they haven’t captured it yet because there have been too many causalities on their side,” said Capt Bu Paw of the KNLA Battalion 201.
Capt Bu Paw claimed that only one KNLA soldier had died in the battle, while at least 16 soldiers from the other side had been killed or injured.
There were no reports of fighting today, although the KNLA said that clashes could resume at any time.
The joint force consists of troops from the DKBA’s Battalions 906, 907 and 333 and the Burmese army’s Light Infantry Battalions 231 and 459. Battalions 555 and 999 of the DKBA have also been sent to Myawaddy as reinforcements.
Burmese and DKBA troops have been carrying out combined attacks on the KNLA’s Valeki bases since late 2008, even as Burmese Prime Minister Gen Thein Sein maintains that his government would like to hold talks with top leaders of the Karen National Union (KNU), the KNLA’s political wing.
The KNU has been fighting for autonomy since Burma regained its independence from British colonial rule in 1948. Although a number of breakaway groups have since defected to the Burmese government, the KNU has never signed a ceasefire agreement with the regime.
An article in The New Light of Myanmar, a junta mouthpiece, on Sunday highlighted the recent defection of Nay Soe Mya, son of the late KNU leader Gen Saw Bo Mya, as the latest successful effort to undermine the KNU’s unity. Nay Soe Mya and around 70 former Karen rebels surrendered to the regime on March 30.
The article also said that the KNU has not been able to achieve peace “despite several unique opportunities to do so due to the disruptive influence of certain elements.”