By THE IRRAWADDY
Two Thai soldiers and one civilian were injured and hundreds of villagers were evacuated as soldiers of the Burmese army and the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) launched a cross border attack along the Thai-Burmese border on Monday, according to Thai media.
The Thai News Agency (TNA) reported that two Thai soldiers and one villager were injured in the border skirmish as more than 200 Burmese troops and DKBA guerrillas engaged in a joint assault on a base of the Karen National Union (KNU) on the Burmese side of the border.
The joint operation against the KNU occurred opposite a Thai village in Phop Phra District in Tak Province near the border. During the operation, Burmese troops crossed into Thailand.
Col Padung Yingpaiboonsuk, the commander of a special task force of the 34th Infantry Regiment of the Royal Thai Army, said at least three mortar shells landed on Thai territory, and the Burmese and DKBA troops clashed with Thai troops near the border, according to the TNA report.
The TNA said that about 200 Thai villagers near the skirmish area were temporarily evacuated to a Buddhist temple.
KNU sources said that since earlier April, Burmese troops along with the DKBA have undertaken a major assault on Valeki, a Burmese camp of the Karen rebel military wing, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA).
More than a dozen persons have reportedly died in the clashes, including a KNLA colonel identified as Saw Jay.
Last week, a rumor of a potential attack by the Burmese army and the DKBA spread through Karen refugee camps along the border.
During a visit by the Thai foreign minister to Burma in March, Burmese officials asked Thailand to serve in a mediation role in peace talks with Karen officials. The KNU has fought for Karen autonomy for more than six decades.
On April 6, a meeting in Burma between the Thai foreign minister and KNU representatives occurred in which a letter from Prime Minister Gen Thein Sein was given to the KNU, offering to meet for peace negotiations.
The KNU said at the meeting that any peace talks should be held in a third country.
KNU sources said that the offer could be related to the 2010 Burmese elections in an effort to give more legitimacy to the junta’s election in the eyes of the international community.
However, the KNU said in a statement on Sunday that the election would not be free or fair and renewed its call for the release of all political prisoners and the halt of all military offensives against ethnic minorities.
“We are working for a peaceful, stable, federal Burma,” said the KNU statement. “We stand ready to enter into a genuine tripartite dialogue, as facilitated by the United Nations at any time.”