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Khun Sa's bases face offensive

Subject: Khun Sa's bases face offensive

Khun Sa bases face offensive

Burmese government troops are advancing towards key positions held
by opium warlord Khun Sa and have fired a mortar barrage across a
key river, a source close to the rebel leader said yesterday.
     Burmese troops were firing at Khun Sa's positions form the
west bank of the Salween River and were preparing to launch an
attack across it soon, the source said.
     "The planned to launch the offensive against us by Jan 10 but
our officers at the front line said that so far the Burmese have
only fired mortars across the river" the source said.
     A thousand Burmese troops equipped with mortars and artillery
pieces were advancing towards Khun Sa's stronghold in easter
Burma's Shan State and were 20km from Pang Maisoong, a major
outpost of Khun Sa's army.
     "They fired at us but we did not respond.  We will hold our
fire until they cross the river" he said.
     More than 30 Burmese soldiers were killed in the Salween when
they tried to cross it on Dec 19 and were repelled with mortars,
local people said.
     Heavy fighting broke out between Burmese troops and Khun Sa's
Mong Tai Army on Dec 15, two days after the warlord proclaimed his
stronghold an independent state.
     Thai military and rebel sources estimate that 120 soldiers
form both sides were killed during the six hour clash when about
1000 government troops made an unsuccessful attempt to cross the
     A source in another Golden Triangle guerilla force, the Wa
United Army, Khun Sa's main rivals in the heroin business, said
last week that Rangoon had deployed more than 30000 fresh troops in
the Shan state to fight Khun Sa.
     "I think the Burmese soldiers will launch their offensive in
the very near future.  Otherwise they will have problems with
supplies" the Wa officer said.
     Government troops launched a major offensive against Khun Sa
for the first time last month.  A spokesman for Khun Sa initially
branded the attack a cosmetic operation to please the United States
but Thailand's National Security Council chief, who has close
relations with the Burmese junta, said Rangoon was at last serious
about tackling the narcotics problem.