Myanmar junta attacks garrison in bid to rescue stranded soldiers

Dozens of junta troops remain stranded at a truck depot along the border with Thailand.
By RFA Burmese
2024.04.16
Myanmar junta attacks garrison in bid to rescue stranded soldiers Military personnel stand guard as hundreds of refugees cross over the Moei River frontier between Myanmar and Thailand in Mae Sot, Tak province, Thailand, April 13, 2024.
Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters

Myanmar’s junta launched an airstrike Tuesday on a military garrison in Kayin state that rebel forces captured last week and attempted to rescue dozens of its former occupants who had been sheltering near the country’s border with Thailand, according to Thai soldiers and residents.

Allied rebel forces, including the Karen National Liberation Army, or KNLA, captured a final junta battalion base in Myawaddy on the morning of April 11, effectively gaining control of the city and causing thousands of residents to flee into the border region.

The takeover forced some 200 junta soldiers from Light Infantry Battalion 275 to seek shelter at a truck depot in northern Myawaddy near Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge No. 2 – one of two bridges which regulate both people and goods and connect Myawaddy to Thailand’s Mae Sot.

The Karen National Union displays weapons and ammunition seized on April 11, 2024 from the military junta council’s Light Infantry Battalion 275 in Myawaddy township. (KNU via Facebook)
The Karen National Union displays weapons and ammunition seized on April 11, 2024 from the military junta council’s Light Infantry Battalion 275 in Myawaddy township. (KNU via Facebook)

A Thai soldier in Mae Sot told RFA Burmese that the junta attacked the site of the garrison on Tuesday and sent reinforcements from Mawlamyine – Myanmar’s fourth largest city, located 300 kilometers (190 miles) southeast of Yangon  – to rescue the troops at the border.

“The junta mobilized armored cars from Mawlamyine’s Southeastern Command and conducted an airstrike today to retake and rescue the stranded troops following the fall of Battalion 275 last week,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the matter.

The Reporters, a Thailand-based news organization, reported that the junta carried out an airstrike at around 10 a.m. on Tuesday near the Light Infantry Battalion 275 base in Myawaddy, which is currently occupied by the KNLA and allied forces.

A soldier stands guard as hundreds of refugees cross over the Moei River frontier between Myanmar and Thailand in Mae Sot, Tak province, Thailand, April 13, 2024. (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)
A soldier stands guard as hundreds of refugees cross over the Moei River frontier between Myanmar and Thailand in Mae Sot, Tak province, Thailand, April 13, 2024. (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)

The airstrike, reportedly conducted by a MIG-29 jet fighter, took place a day after rebels raised the ethnic Karen flag over the compound. The extent of damage to the site was unknown.

Attempts by RFA to contact Saw Khin Maung Myint, the junta’s economic minister and spokesperson for Kayin state, went unanswered Tuesday, as did efforts to contact the Karen National Union – the political organization whose armed wing is the KNLA.

Stranded soldiers

A resident of Myawaddy who declined to be named due to security concerns told RFA that the situation in the city appeared “normal” on Tuesday, despite the airstrike.

"I haven’t heard anything unusual,” he said, adding that “people are going about their usual activities."

It was not immediately clear whether the junta was able to rescue its stranded soldiers on Tuesday.

Military personnel stand guard as hundreds of refugees crossed over the Moei River frontier between Myanmar and Thailand in Mae Sot, Tak province, Thailand, April 13, 2024.(Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)
Military personnel stand guard as hundreds of refugees crossed over the Moei River frontier between Myanmar and Thailand in Mae Sot, Tak province, Thailand, April 13, 2024.(Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)

But Thai soldiers on the other side of Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge No. 2 told RFA they expect the patience of the Karen rebels will run out soon and that an attack on the truck depot could be imminent.

Thai media reports have also cited local sources on both sides of the border as saying that the stranded junta troops are running out of food and may be forced to surrender, if Karen rebels don’t attack first.

The reports follow an April 13 statement issued by the anti-junta White Tiger Column, which claimed rebel forces had intercepted a military convoy that included tanks on its way to Myawaddy township as reinforcements.

Translated by Kalyar Lwin. Edited by Joshua Lipes and Malcolm Foster.

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