Wednesday, July 1, 2009

June'09, the Cruelest Month

Capt Maung Kyit Aye of KNLA Brigade 7
stands behind a machine gun at
Battalion 21 headquarters. (Photo: Dai Kurokawa)

The Irrawaddy News
JULY, 2009 - VOLUME 17 NO.4

A major push to further marginalize the Karen National Liberation Army has resulted in the fall of its last major base

ON June 21, after three weeks of fighting, a joint force of Burmese army and Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) troops seized the headquarters of Brigade 7 of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), ending an offensive launched on June 2.

The fall of the KNLA’s last major base inside Karen State was the latest blow for the ethnic insurgent army, which has been at war with Burma’s rulers for more than 60 years. Fierce clashes also forced some 4,000 people in Pa-an District, including Karen villagers and internally displaced persons from a camp in Ler Per Her, to flee to Tha Song Yang in Thailand’s Tak Province for safety.

(Map:The Irrawaddy)

The Karen National Union, the KNLA’s political wing, said that about 20 Burmese and DKBA troops were killed in the offensive, while the KNLA lost just five of its soldiers. However, the pro-junta force succeeded in taking not only the KNLA Brigade 7 headquarters, but also smaller bases where the brigade’s Battalions 21, 22, 101 and 202 were stationed.

Maj Hla Ngwe, the secretary of the KNU’s information department, said that KNLA Brigade 7 would now use guerrilla tactics similar to those employed by other brigades operating in northern Karen State.

The offensive was seen as part of a push to further marginalize the KNU ahead of next year’s planned election. Some analysts also suggested that it was an attempt to put pressure on Thailand for its criticism of the Burmese regime’s trial of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The junta is also unhappy with Thailand for allowing family members of KNLA soldiers to take shelter on Thai soil. However, human rights groups have criticized Thailand for pushing refugees back into Burma.

Burma’s ruling generals were also said to be inspired by Sri Lanka’s military defeat of the Tamil Tigers in May, after more than a quarter century of civil war. Sri Lankan President Mahindra Rajapakse made a two-day state visit to Burma on June 14-15, during which the two countries pledged closer cooperation on a host of issues, including anti-terrorism measures.

In May, at the 8th Shangri-La Dialogue Meeting in Singapore, Burma’s Deputy Defense Minister Maj-Gen Aye Myint said the world had witnessed the successful end of the conflict in Sri Lanka, but had forgotten about the insurgency in Burma.

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