Myanmar Military Clashes with Resistance Forces in Myawaddy, Forcing Thousands to Flee

Fierce clashes erupt on Myanmar-Thailand border, forcing thousands to flee as resistance fighters seize control of strategic town, dealing a blow to the junta's grip on power.

Rafia Tasleem
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Myanmar Military Clashes with Resistance Forces in Myawaddy, Forcing Thousands to Flee

Myanmar Military Clashes with Resistance Forces in Myawaddy, Forcing Thousands to Flee

Fierce fighting erupted on the Myanmar-Thailand border in the town of Myawaddy on Saturday, forcing around 3,000 civilians to flee across the border into Thailand. Resistance fighters and ethnic minority rebels seized control of Myawaddy on April 11, dealing a significant blow to Myanmar's military junta.

Witnesses reported hearing explosions and heavy machine gun fire near a strategic bridge connecting Myawaddy to Thailand. Resistance forces used 40-millimeter machine guns and dropped bombs from drones to target an estimated 200 junta soldiers who had retreated from the earlier assault on Myawaddy and nearby army posts.

The Myanmar military responded with airstrikes, claiming the rebels had sustained heavy losses. However, the capture of Myawaddy and surrounding outposts is a major setback for the junta, which is facing multiple conflicts and an economic crisis since the 2021 coup that ousted Aung San Suu Kyi's government.

Why this matters: The fall of Myawaddy to resistance forces highlights the growing challenges faced by Myanmar's military in maintaining control since the coup. The ongoing conflict has led to a humanitarian crisis, with thousands displaced and seeking refuge in neighboring countries like Thailand.

Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said Thailand is closely monitoring the situation and is ready to provide humanitarian assistance if necessary. He urged Myanmar to exercise caution to avoid violating Thai sovereignty or airspace. Thailand has previously delivered aid to Myanmar for displaced people.

The fighting in Myawaddy subsided by Saturday afternoon, but sporadic gunfire could still be heard. Thai authorities reported that around 1,200 refugees had been taken to temporary shelters. Residents in Myawaddy reported casualties from the junta airstrikes, with at least five civilians killed in the crossfire.

Myawaddy is a vital trade hub for Myanmar, with over $1.1 billion worth of goods passing through the town in the 12 months to April. The loss of this key revenue source is a further blow to the cash-strapped junta as it struggles to govern in the face of widespread armed resistance.

Key Takeaways

  • Fierce fighting erupted on Myanmar-Thailand border, forcing 3,000 civilians to flee.
  • Resistance forces seized control of Myawaddy, a major setback for Myanmar's military junta.
  • Myanmar military responded with airstrikes, claiming heavy rebel losses, but faced challenges.
  • Thailand is monitoring the situation and ready to provide humanitarian aid if needed.
  • Myawaddy's loss is a further blow to Myanmar's cash-strapped junta facing armed resistance.