Burmese shells land on Thai soil

June 11, 2009 (DVB), Artillery shells fired by the Burmese army in its ongoing offensive against the Karen National Union have reportedly landed on Thai soil, as fighting steps up near to the border.

The Burmese army, backed up by the junta-allied Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), began their offensive against the Karen National Union's (KNU) armed wing, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), on 2 June.

Around 6000 Karen villagers have fled across the Thai border since fighting began, with some holed-up in remote caves.

A KNLA lieutenant Seth John told DVB that three artillery shells fired by the Burmese army landed in Mae Thari village in Thailand with no reported injuries.

According to the KNLA, around 40 government troops have been injured so far, while the DKBA claim 10 fighters from the KNLA have been injured.

Pho Alsho, a resident from Mae The village in Burma said that every villager had fled into Thailand since the fight started.

"There were about 100 households in our village; everyone is now in Thailand as we fear the Burmese army was using us as porters for their offence," said Pho Alsho.

Earlier this week the Karen Human Rights Group reported that villagers were being forcibly recruited to act as government army porters or to walk in front of troop patrols as minesweepers.

The National Democratic Front (NDF), a coalition of exiled Burmese opposition groups, released a statement yesterday strongly denouncing the Burmese junta's offensive against "innocent Karen civilians".

Phone Kyaw, secretary of the NDF said that the Burmese government, despite knowing that their attack was having direct and severe effects on Karen villagers, was carrying on regardless.

"This is a crime against humanity , people have to flee their villages while many of them were injured," said Phone Kyaw.

A number of those who have fled were from the populous Ler Per Har refugee camp in Karen state.

The United Nations said yesterday that it had sent staff to locations inside Thailand where villagers had fled to.

Reporting by Naw Noreen

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