Artillery shells hit Thailand as fighting rages

A number of stray artillery shells fired during fighting in eastern Burma have landed in Thailand, causing locals to evacuate.

Heavy fighting erupted this week between Burmese troops and the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), who have been battling one another in eastern Karen state since November last year.

The Thai News Service reported today that eleven shells had so far landed on Thai soil close to the border town of Mae Sot. The Thai army has subsequently bolstered security along the shared border, while a number of refugees had fled into Thailand.

The DKBA is joined by the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF). The combined forces are reportedly facing off against six Burmese army battalions in the area around Hpalu village, which has become the focus of clashes.

The Bangkok Post said today that DKBA troops had taken a Thai civilian, identified only as Mr Kriangsak, hostage in Karen state and were demanding a 300,000 baht ($US9,800) ransom.

The man had reportedly crossed over the border to negotiate a financial matter with the DKBA, but upon failing to reach an agreement, was taken hostage.

Fighting first began on 8 November after DKBA troops, led by renegade commander Na Kham Mwe, took key government positions in Myawaddy, across the border from Mae Sot. Clashes have since continued to occur on a regular basis.

Reports have also emerged that a number of child soldiers have deserted the Burmese army in recent days. One 17-year-old told DVB that the army had stopped providing food rations for troops fighting in Karen state, thus forcing them to escape to the Thai border.

Recruitment of child soldiers by the Burmese army and a number of ethnic armies is widespread, despite being illegal under Burmese law.

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