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Myanmar: Junta troops withdraw from border town, rebels say

April 11, 2024

Anti-junta rebels say they have driven government troops from a key border hub near Thailand. If the news is verified, it signals another setback for Myanmar's military as it battles a number of ethnic rebel groups.

Thai soldiers standing guard near the Myanmar border on April 10, 2024
Thailand has stepped up its military presence at the border to Myanmar amid fighting thereImage: MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty Images

Troops loyal to Myanmar's military junta have pulled out from the town of Myawaddy at the Thai border after a dayslong assault by an ethnic armed group, a rebel spokesman said on Thursday.

The fighting has caused large numbers of people to try to flee to neighboring Thailand from the border town, which is a major trading hub.

Myanmar's military junta, which took power in a 2021 coup, has suffered a number of recent defeats at the hands of ethnic rebel groups and a civilian militia movement, with some saying it could soon be toppled.

What do we know so far?

Padoh Saw Taw Nee, a spokesman for the Karen National Union (KNU), told AFP news agency that around 200 junta soldiers stationed in the town had withdrawn to a bridge linking it to the Thai border town of Mae Sot.

"We took [Myanmar military battalion] 275 at 10 p.m. last night," he said.

The KNU said last week that its troops had attacked a junta camp near Myawaddy, forcing some 600 security personnel and their families to surrender.

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Thai immigration officials said some 4,000 people were entering Thailand daily from Myanmar, compared with the some 1,900 that usually crossed the border. 

Thailand has said it is prepared to accept up to 100,000 people displaced by the clashes. The kingdom has stepped up security on its side of the border and is preparing to send more immigration officials to the region in anticipation of an increased flow of people fleeing the fighting.

Myawaddy is a vital trading hub for Myanmar's junta and saw about $1.1 billion (€1 billion) in goods pass through in the past 12 months, according to the country's commerce ministry.  

 tj/wd (AFP, Reuters)