In the crisis country of Myanmar, the military junta responded to the takeover of the important trading city of Myawaddy by rebel groups with heavy air strikes.

Since Friday, the army has dropped at least 130 bombs on the city on the border with Thailand, members of the armed wing of the KNLA (Karen National Liberation Army) and local media reported unanimously. According to unconfirmed reports, at least ten civilians were killed.

Since air strikes also hit remote villages near Myawaddy, the exact death toll is still unclear, said a 25-year-old who helps refugees on the Thai side. According to Thai Foreign Minister Parnpree Bahiddha-nukara, around 3,000 more people have fled to the border town of Mae Sot in the neighboring country since the weekend.

“It was like it was raining bombs from the sky. We were so scared,” said one of the refugees, 23-year-old Saw Htoo, to the German Press Agency. Myawaddy in Myanmar and Mae Sot in Thailand are separated only by the Moei River. A revolutionary alliance led by the KNLA occupied the last military garrison in the city on April 11th. Since then, some of the remaining soldiers have been waiting at a bridge to Thailand. They reportedly refuse to surrender to the rebels.

New blow for the junta

The Thai army has been deployed at Moei for days with numerous armored vehicles. Soldiers patrol the border and are supposed to ensure security. Myanmar’s military junta is reportedly finding it difficult to reinforce troops in Myawaddy because there is only one major access road and it is controlled by rebels. According to the rebel alliance, the generals are currently responding primarily with air strikes.

For Myanmar’s junta, the loss of Myawaddy was another blow after it had previously lost a town on the border with China to rebels from the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). Myawaddy is considered one of the most important trading posts between the former Burma and Thailand. Since the coup in February 2021, Myanmar has descended into chaos and violence. The military junta, which deposed and arrested Prime Minister Aung San Suu Kyi at the time, has recently come under increasing pressure in the multi-ethnic state.