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Myanmar junta launches fresh air raids in rebel territory

BANGKOK: Myanmar’s military launched air assaults for the second day in a row into the rebel-held territory after gunfire was heard from neighbouring Thailand, a Thai official said on Wednesday, as fighting escalates along the border.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the junta ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a February 1 coup, its power grab angering much of its population.

The anti-junta movement has also garnered some support from some ethnic rebel groups, which controls territory along Myanmar’s border regions.

The Karen National Union (KNU), one of the most prominent, has been among the junta’s most vocal opponents — blasting the junta for violence against anti-coup protesters.

Clashes with the military in KNU’s territory along the eastern border have increased since February 1, with the junta deploying air assaults last month — the first instance in Karen state in over 20 years.

The KNU’s Fifth Brigade on Tuesday attacked and razed an army base on the banks of the Salween River — which demarcates a border between Thailand and Myanmar — and the military retaliated with air offensives. On Wednesday, gunfire and bomb explosions could once again be heard around 9 am near Myanmar’s Dar Gwin military base — located just north of yesterday’s skirmish.

“It is suspected that (Myanmar) soldiers opened fire to protect their base,” said a statement from Sithichai Jindaluang, the governor of Mae Hong Son province which borders Myanmar’s Karen state.

Two Myanmar military aeroplanes then “launched an airstrike and aerial gunfire”, followed by rockets fired from helicopters around noon, he said.

The governor added that 68 Myanmar residents crossed into Thailand this morning for refuge.

The day before, a 45-year-old Myanmar national had crossed over in the evening after Tuesday’s fighting to seek medical help for his wounded wrist. He is now “stable”. — AFP

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