Myanmar Troops Gain on Rebels as Villagers Flee
Thomas Fuller (New York Times, Aug. 20, 2009)
MAE SALID, Thailand — For the first time in at least a decade, Burma/Myanmar’s central government controls most of its own border with Thailand. By the standards of most countries this might not be considered a major accomplishment. But Burma has been fighting ethnic Karen rebels along the mountainous border for nearly as long as it has existed as an independent country.
The Myanmar military and a local proxy militia undertook an assault in June that led to the capture of seven military camps run by the Karen National Union, a rebel group that once so dominated parts of the 1,100-mile Thailand-Burma border that it collected customs duties at its own checkpoints.
Karen National Liberation Army Col. Bothien Thientha, 48, was injured during fighting in June against a militia allied with the government (NYTimes/Thomas Fuller).
The June offensive surprised the Karen forces partly because it took place during the muddy monsoon season, usually a time of a climate-induced truce. Hundreds of rebels fled into the jungles infested with malaria-carrying mosquitoes. The Karen have led one of the most resilient insurgencies in Asia. They once proposed to their British colonial overlords that they create an independent “Karenistan.” More>>