Hundreds of Karen guerrillas, joined by students who fled government repression in major cities, battled Burmese troops Tuesday trying to retake this base near the Thai border, guerrilla commanders said.

The students, numbering about 130, recently joined the guerrillas in front-line fighting for the first time, said the commanders, who spoke on condition of anonymity.The rebel leaders said the students received four weeks military training from the ethnic minority Karens, who have been waging a war for greater autonomy.

More than 5,000 students and other protestors fled to the Karens after a military coup Sept. 18 and a ruthless suppression of a "people's power" uprising in which more than 450 people died.