Friday, May 24, 2024

Myanmar’s anti-coup rebels forced to retreat from vital trade hub after junta counterattack

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In the roiling cauldron of Myanmar’s civil war, a major ethnic rebel group has been forced into a humbling retreat from a strategic border town after the military’s iron fist came smashing down.

The Karen National Union’s gambit to seize control of Myawaddy – a vital trade artery straddling the Thai frontier – has been reversed, at least for now. The rebels have executed a “temporary retreat” from the lucrative border hub, a KNU spokesperson admitted on Wednesday, as the junta’s forces bore down on the area in overwhelmingly numbers.

Myawaddy’s capture by the KNU rebels just weeks ago represented a audacious blow against Myanmar’s military rulers and their increasingly desperate efforts to reassert authority over the coup-wracked nation. But that symbolic win has swiftly unraveled in the face of the generals’ scorched-earth counteroffensive.

“The Karen fighters will regroup and destroy the junta troops and reinforcements that stormed into Myawaddy,” warned Saw Taw Nee, speaking for the KNU’s armed wing known as the Karen National Liberation Army. The KNLA is one of the country’s most battle-hardened ethnic guerrilla forces and has been fighting the Bamar Buddhist majority’s dominance for decades.

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Exactly where the rebels will make their next stand was unclear. But the КNU spokesman’s defiant vow suggested the borderlands could erupt in more intense combat as the struggle against Myanmar’s military regime rages on.

The ferocious fighting around Myawaddy in recent days has sparked an exodus of terrified civilians fleeing the crossfire into Thailand. Some 3,000 Myanmar residents scrambled across the border in a single day last weekend as the KNU rebels tried to dislodge junta troops dug in around a key bridge crossing.

As of Wednesday, Bangkok said the situation had calmed enough to consider reopening the Thai gateway – a relief for the billions of dollars in annual trade crimped by the unrest. An estimated 650 Myanmar civilians remained taking refuge on Thai soil.

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“The situation has improved significantly,” said Thai military spokesperson Nikorndej Balankura. “Nevertheless, we are closely monitoring the situation, which is highly uncertain and volatile.”

The junta’s counterpunch to retake Myawaddy allegedly involved cooperation from a local Karen militia faction that had sat out the rebels’ April 16 offensive. Photos on pro-military channels showed Myanmar troops raising the nation’s flag over a base recently flying the КNU’s banners.

Such dizzying reversals of fortune exemplify the shifting sands and bitter fragmentation spawned by Myanmar’s post-coup descent into anarchy. The once-liberated heartlands have increasingly morphed into ungovernable killing zones as the military’s scorched-earth tactics pit it against an expansive array of armed opposition groups.

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Amidst the chaos, coup-maker Min Aung Hlaing’s junta is confronted by a Hydra-headed resistance spanning ethnic rebel armies, anti-coup militia groups, pro-democracy protesters and opportunistic criminal enterprises. All are fueled by bottomless hatred for the men in uniform.

Thailand, the current ASEAN chair, claims to have proposed hosting talks aimed at quelling Myanmar’s worsening crisis. But with blood feuds engulfing whole swaths of the country, any negotiated settlement looks fanciful as the bodies keep piling up.

Instead, the junta seems bent on pulverizing resistance by sheer force – no matter how much of the nation it must burn to the ground. Myawaddy may have fallen again, but the Karen rebels’ thirst for vengeance is unslaked. Their tormentors had best brace for an endless storm of payback.



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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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