Today’s aerial attacks follow the storming yesterday of a Myanmar army base on the Thanlwin River by the Karen armed group’s Fifth Brigade.
The Tatmadaw launched air assaults for the second day in a row into Karen National Union-held territory in northern Kayin State after gunfire was heard from neighbouring Thailand, a Thai official said Wednesday.
The KNU, one of Myanmar’s most prominent ethnic armed groups, has also been among the most vocal opponents of the February 1 military coup.
Despite a ceasefire being in place since 2012, fighting between the Tatmadaw and KNU along the eastern border with Thailand has escalated since the coup. The junta deployed air assaults last month – the first instance in Kayin in over 20 years – and more than 24,000 people in the area have been displaced from their homes.
The KNU’s Fifth Brigade on Tuesday attacked and razed a Myanmar army base on the banks of the Thanlwin (Salween) River – which demarcates a border between Thailand and Myanmar – and the Tatmadaw retaliated with air offensives.
On Wednesday, gunfire and bomb explosions could once again be heard around 9am near the Dar Gwin Tatmadaw 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 Kayin.
Two Myanmar military airplanes then “launched an air strike 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”.
KNU’s head of foreign affairs Padoh Saw Taw Nee confirmed the air raids but said their soldiers “did not attack anything today”.
He also criticised the junta for launching air assaults on civilian areas.
“This is not the proper way for them to retaliate because the air strikes is extensive power compared to the might of [the KNU],” he told AFP.
“They need to target military [personnel], but now all we see are civilians getting hurt.”
Both the Thai governor and KNU could not confirm any casualties from Wednesday’s air raids.