FILE - In this March 30, 2021, file photo, Myanmar soldiers stand at a small army camp
FILE - In this March 30, 2021, photo, Myanmar soldiers stand at a small army camp along the river bank near the border of Myanmar and Thailand. Ethnic Karen guerrillas said they captured the Myanmar army base Tuesday, April 27, 2021.

A Myanmar ethnic rebel group says it has taken over an army outpost near the eastern border with Thailand. 

Fighting broke out early Tuesday morning in an area near the Salween river, which separates Myanmar and Thailand. Villagers on the Thai side of the river reported hearing heavy gunfire before dawn. 

Padoh Saw Taw Nee, a spokesman for the Karen National Union, said the group seized the army outpost around 5 a.m. local time (2230 GMT). Witnesses on the Thai side of the river said they saw at least six Myanmarese soldiers running from the base. 

Karen rebel forces have engaged in intense fighting against the Myanmar army since it overthrew the democratically-elected civilian government on February 1, attacking military and police stations in Karen state. The military responded by launching airstrikes against Karen rebels, displacing about 24,000 civilians in recent weeks. 

Myanmar Exiles Are Seeking Refuge in Kayin State

The Karen are one of Myanmar’s many ethnic rebel forces who have sided with  protesters who have staged daily mass demonstrations across Myanmar demanding the return of de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her elected government to power. 

The military cited widespread fraud in last November’s general election — which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won in a landslide — as its reason for overthrowing the government.