|A Thai Army's Commando V-150 APC.|
|Thai tanks inside Burmese territory.|
|A Burmese anti-tank launcher crew firing.|
|A Thai M-60 Main Battle Tank.|
|Burmese 80 mm heavy mortar crew firing in the Hill O-7 battle.|
|A Super Galeb G4 Fighter Bomber.|
At 13:00 Thais started advancing again under the protection of heavy weapon fires from the mobile artillery and tanks. Most of their shells fell on the defensive positions manned by Captain Saw Naing Oo, Lt. Saw Tin Win and their main troops on the Hill O-7.
|A Burmese 120 mm heavy mortar crew.|
|A Burmese G-4 strafing the enemy position.|
The Battle at Border Post 9631
In order to support the UWSA in its fight against the SSA, and help it establish the full control of the areas along the border to Thailand, the Myanmar Army launched an operation that was to result in the fighting with Thai military as well.
While the Myanmar regime would not comment about these operations, meanwhile it is known that the fiercest series of battles was fought for the Thai Border Post 9631, mounted on a hilltop one kilometre inside Thailand, at Ban Pang Noon, in the Mae Fae Luang district, on approach to the Mae Sai, a city some 440 miles away from Bangkok, in the northernmost tip of Thailand.
The exact reasons for the attack on this border post remain unclear: some Thai sources indicated that the Myanmaris attacked the Border Post 9631 – garrisoned by 20 Tahan Pran Militia troops – either “by accident”, while pursuing Shan guerrilla, or in order to get a good fire-base for their artillery attacks against the nearby Shan positions. It is interesting to note, however, that this attack came on the evening of Friday, 9 February 2001, when most of the Thai military was on a leave.
In fact, the unofficial sources within the Thai Army indicated that the attack was undertaken by no less but 900 Myanmar troops and 600 UWSA militiamen, and that its objective was to remove the Thais from a position from which the Myanmaris could smuggle drugs into Thailand. In the past, namely, the local commander of the Tahan Pran was several times offered money to let their convoys with drugs pass, but he refused all such offers (in fact, he should have told the Myanmaris to, “go feed fish” with their opium).
|Thai Army Rangers on the Border Line.|
Having taken all their injured with them, the Tahan Pran were relatively easy to pursue by the enemy, and a short running engagement developed until the 3rd Cavalry Regiment of the Thai 1st Armoured Division started a rescue effort. Having the Post 9631 in their hands, the Myanmaris actually needed no more fighting, but their intention was to use the post and the surviving Tahan Prans as a bait for a trap they attempted to set up for any intervening Thai unit.
As the Tahan Pran held out longer than anticipated, however, their plan was spoiled, as instead of deploying their troops on the flanks on the main threat route, the Myanmaris were forced to involve their reservers in the fighting.
On 10 February, the Thai 3rd Cavalry Regiment assembled a battalion-sized task force from a part of a mechanized infantry battalion armed with M-113A-3 APCs, an infantry company and a company of M-60A-3 MBTs. The unit was put under command of Capt. Songkarn Nilphan, and instantly sent on its way.
Approaching Mae Sai on the same evening, the Nilphan’s force counterattacked the Myanmaris that were still busy fighting the Tahan Prans. The Cavalry charged forward, hitting the enemy hit very hard, forcing them to retreat back towards the border, leaving 17 dead and 60 injured behind. The Thais had only seven wounded.
On the morning of 11 February, the Myanmar Army responded in strength, deploying three regiments supported by Chinese-supplied T-69 tanks and artillery into an attack against Mae Sae, the local military Headquarters, and the adjacent satellite communications site.
The Thais first concentrated on repulsing the main column, engaging T-69s with their M-60A3s, and subsequently by RTAF F-5s, which flew several strikes armed with LGBs, after starting from the Chiang Mai AB. Later on Sunday, Thai forces were reinforced by some self-propelled artillery (M-109s) and several batteries of even more powerful guns, including some GCN-55s, and the remaining two Myanmar columns were stopped as well, after suffering some heavy losses in dead, injured and captured soldiers.
While the whole 3rd Thai Army was mobilizing and deploying reinforcements towards Mae Sai, the RTAF continued mounting intensive strikes, hitting Myanmar positions and supply columns. Late on Sunday afternoon, the final counter-attack by Thai troops drove Myanmaris out of Thailand, re-capturing the Border Post 9631. There an injured Tahan Pran officer - previously assumed dead - was found alive.
|A RTAF Bell UH1H helicopter.|
At 19:30h local time, a cease-fire was agreed. This was generally accepted, but sporadic fighting continued as the Myanmaris were bringing in 2.000 fresh troops from Kengtung to Tachilek, together with some heavy weapons.
Especially the artillery was involved in the sense of duels over the border and some additional strikes by RTAF aircraft. The RTAF Chian Mai AB was the main base for all Thai air operations during this battle, and the Royal Thai Air Force units deployed there proved highly successful in operations against Myanmar. RTAF fighters have flown up to 70 combat sorties between 10 and 12 February, including a LGB-strike against a Myanmar artillery battery placed on the Golf course at Thachilek.
This mission was flown by one F-5F and three F-5Es. The F-5F was equipped with the Israeli Litening nav/attack and designation pod: the WSO in the F-5F designated the target, while his pilot tried to fly steady – while remaining out of range of air defences. The three F-5Es closed from different sides at a high speed and tossed two six 2.000pds Paveway LGBs each into the acquisition basket before disappearing the other way.
The Myanmar anti-aircraft fire was reported as "light", and none of Thai aircraft was hit or damaged. According to Thai sources, except for at least a dozen of Myanmar troops, at least five civilians were killed and ten injured during this attack as well.
|A RTAF F-5E fighter bomber plane.|
On 14 February the RTAF also deployed a number of F-16s to Chaing Mai AB, and these flew constant air combat patrols along the border for the following two weeks.
The situation remained tense, and on 10 May 2001 RTAF F-16s attacked targets in Kyauket area, in the Shon State: according to Myanmar sources, several objects in the villages of Gawli and Lawsansaw – both almost directly on the Thai border - were hit by several “rockets” in two waves.
Rangoon protested strongly against these attacks, threatening to “take appropriate action to protect its national sovereignty and territory integrity”. No additional strikes are known to have been flown by either air force: instead, a series of negotiations followed, in which the then new Thai government managed to decrease tensions.
The “body-count" after the battle for Border Post 9631 was never published by either side, but some Thai sources indicate that the Tahan Pran alone were responsible for the death of up to 80 Myanmar soldiers, while - in total – the Thai side suffered one dead and 37 injured soldiers, as well as three killed civilians and seven wounded. Official Thai sources claimed that also two women were killed in attacks of Myanmar artillery against Mae Sai.
Capt. Songkarn Nilphan later claimed that nearly 100 Myanmar troops were killed during this battle: even if he confirmed that Thai troops reported finding only three bodies inside the Post 9631, the Thais believed that many other bodies were taken back to Myanmar.
On the Myanmari side, Col. Kyaw Thein, a senior intelligence office, confirmed that the Myanmar Army lost 12 troops killed and 15 wounded during these “border skirmishes”, but that these casualties were suffered only during the fighting against the Shan rebels – not against the Thais.