By SAW YAN NAING
A joint force of Burmese and pro-junta Karen troops attacked the base camp of a Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) battalion early Monday morning, according to Karen rebel sources.
Sources from the Karen National Union (KNU), the political wing of the KNLA, said that fighting broke out in Valeki, where the KNLA’s Battalion 201 is based, at around 6 a.m. Monday and lasted about 20 minutes.
There were no casualties reported in the clash, which started after a combined force of around 100 Burmese and Karen troops launched an attack on the KNLA base.
The sources said they expected KNLA Battalion 201 to come under further attacks from the Burmese army’s Light Infantry Battalion 356 and Battalion 907 of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), a Karen ceasefire group that broke away from the KNU more than a decade ago.
Capt Bu Paw of the KNLA’s Battalion 201 said, “We heard that they will attack us until they get control of our area. But they didn’t seem to be able to launch a big attack.”
The battalion has come under fire repeatedly since late last year, as the Burmese army and its Karen proxies try to wrest control of the area from the KNLA because of the profits to be gained from agriculture, logging and mining in the area.
The KNU has been fighting for autonomy since Burma gained independence from British colonial rule in 1948. The DKBA split from the KNU in late 1994 and soon after signed a ceasefire agreement with the Burmese military government. Several other splinter groups have signed separate peace agreements with the military regime since then.
On Saturday, the state-run newspaper, The New Light of Myanmar, reported that 71 Karen rebels led by Nay Soe Mya, son of the late KNU leader Gen Saw Bo Mya, defected to the Burmese military government on March 30.