Combat flares at Myanmar-Thailand border as rebels target stranded junta forces, Asia News

Fighting raged on Myanmar’s eastern border with Thailand on Saturday (April 20), both governments said, forcing 3,000 civilians to flee as rebels fought to flush out Myanmar junta forces who had holed up at a border crossing for days.

Resistance fighters and rebels from ethnic minorities captured the main commercial city of Myawaddy on the Myanmar side of the border on April 11. This was a blow to a well-equipped army that was struggling to govern and was testing its credibility on the battlefield.

Witnesses on the Thai and Myanmar sides of the border said they heard explosions and heavy machine gun fire at a strategic bridge from late Friday through Saturday.

Thai broadcaster NBT said in a post on

Myanmar’s state-run MRTV said in its nightly news broadcast that ethnic minority militias and rebels had used excessive shelling and bombing to attack junta forces, and that government forces had responded with airstrikes in an effort to maintain stability. It said the rebels withdrew after suffering heavy casualties.

Reuters could not immediately verify reports of the fighting.

Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said he was closely monitoring the unrest and that his country was ready to provide humanitarian aid if necessary.

According to figures from the Thai military and the provincial government, 3,027 people had crossed the border on Saturday to seek temporary refuge in the city of Mae Sot.

Challenge the junta

Myanmar’s military is facing its biggest challenge since it took control of the former British colony in 1962. It is embroiled in multiple low-intensity conflicts and struggling to stabilize an economy that has crumbled since a 2021 coup against the government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

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The country is embroiled in a civil war between the army on one side and a loose alliance of established ethnic minority armies on the other, and a resistance movement that grew out of the junta’s bloody crackdown on anti-coup protests.

Thai Prime Minister Srettha said he had instructed all Thai authorities to prepare for all situations and would visit the border area on Tuesday.

“I do not want such clashes to have any impact on Thailand’s territorial integrity and we are ready to protect our borders and the security of our people,” he said on X.

The capture of Myawaddy and surrounding army posts is a significant setback for a junta under pressure from Western sanctions, with the city a major source of tax revenue and a conduit for more than $1 billion in annual border trade.

Thailand’s Foreign Ministry said it hoped the situation would normalize soon and had urged Myanmar’s government to ensure fighting did not spread across the border.

“We have informed the Myanmar embassy in Thailand that Myanmar should be careful not to violate Thai sovereign territory and airspace and not to endanger the safety of people at the border,” spokesman Nikorndej Balankura said.

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