The KNLA base camp, home to its Sixth Brigade’s Battalion 201 and besieged since April 12, has been abandoned.
Soldiers who had mounted a stoic defence turned their backs on home and walked away this afternoon
This evening, at about 5pm, soldiers of the SPDC and the DKBA, were picking through the significant encampment, trying to secure it.
It was not a safe mission.
The camp was left rigged to the hilt with explosive booby traps.
The combined SPDC/DKBA force suffered heavy casualties today in its final approach - the KNLA had blanketed the camp’s perimeter with landmines and tripwires.
“There were many casualties on the other side,” said KNLA Colonel Nerdah Mya.
“We have abandoned the camp and everybody is safe, we will fight another day,” he said at 5.15pm.
He said between 400 and 500 SPDC/DKBA soldiers took part in the final push to take the base camp.
About 80 came from the Thai side, said Nerdah.
He said the Thai Army was nearby, but stayed in Phadee, home to about 500 people who were evacuated yesterday as shells fell near their homes.
“They were there, but they didn’t go into the forest,” he said.
The KNLA was heavily outnumbered, with a skeleton force of 50 to 60 men finally departing the camp.
“We will set up more camps, we will fight another 20 years if we have to,” said a determined Nerdah.
The KNLA camp had been in trouble since June 30 last year, when an unexpected assault quickly overran the camp before dawn.
Colonel Nerdah said he thought the DKBA and SPDC put such importance on Wah Lay Kee mainly because it was the headquarters of Sixth Brigade’s 201st battalion.
“It is really a symbol, it’s not a big area,” he said.
“We can build more camps like that, we have more camps.”
Until last year Wah Lay Kee had never fallen to the Burmese and had been a secure base camp for many years.
It was established when Nerdah’s late father, the General Bo Mya, loomed large in both the KNU and KNLA.
It contained hardwood and bamboo buildings and had stood since 1988.
KNU vice president David Thackrabaw, on hearing the news, said any position that was untenable should be left and then work should begin “behind the lines”.
“It’s relatively easy to block approaches [from within Burma], but if they can get access to the Thai side it makes very difficult,” he said.
Daniel Pedersen Mae Sot
THE Burma Army assisted by its Karen ally militia, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army has overrun the Karen National Liberation Army’s base camp of Wah Lay Kee.