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Renegade troops once loyal to the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) ambushed a Burmese army column yesterday in Karen State, leaving at least one soldier injured on the Burmese side.
A local government official in Hlaingbwe, speaking on condition of anonymity, told DVB that a Burmese army unit patrolling near Kyonhtaw Waterfall, a local tourist attraction in Hlaingbwe, was ambushed by the DKBA renegades on 4 January.
“We received reports that several Burmese troops were injured when they were ambushed by armed men, assumed to be DKBA renegades, in an area to the north of the Kyonhtaw waterfall,” said the official.
Kyaw Thiha, a mediator in peace talks between Karen rebels and the government, confirmed the attack took place. He said that DKBA renegades detonated roadside explosives by remote control as the Burmese unit, belonging to the 118th Light Infantry Battalion (LIB), was on patrol. The Karen rebels then ambushed them with small arms fire, he said.
“Our reports indicate that said three Burmese soldiers from the 118th LIB were injured,” said Kyaw Thiha, adding that the rebels immediately withdrew after the attack.
Burma’s state-run newspapers on Thursday also reported the clash, but claimed that only one soldier sustained an injury.
A fresh bout of hostilities between Burmese government forces and the DKBA renegades led by Saw Kyaw Thet broke out in September last year, displacing hundreds of local villagers. Local sources say that nearly 4,000 Karen villagers remain in displacement camps and shelters, the majority of whom are being housed in the town of Myainggyingu.
The local official in Hlaingbwe told DVB that the displaced locals in Myainggyingu were afraid to tread the jungle trails back to their villages due to the threat of landmines.
“According to our statistics, there are nearly 4,000 IDPs [internally displaced persons] left in Myainggyingu,” said the official.
He said the IDPs were originally provided aid, food and relief supplies by the government and local sympathisers, but are now receiving barely any assistance and face food shortages and a lack of basic necessities.
The DKBA, which is headquartered in Myainggyingu, signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement with the government in 2015. A band of renegades led by Saw Kyaw Thet subsequently broke away from the main group and announced they planned to continue armed struggle against the government.