Junta blames 'terrorist attack' on Karen group

Nov 11, 2009 (DVB), The Burmese government has blamed the recent shooting of three men in eastern Burma on the armed opposition group, the Karen National Union, state media said today.

According to the New Light of Myanmar newspaper, troops from the Karen National Union (KNU) opened fire on a passenger boat on the Salween river in Karen state, killing three and injuring two.

"About 20 KNU terrorists fired small weapons at the boat from the bank at about 7.20 am after it left Tagaung Boe village. The security personnel on the boat returned fire," the newspaper said.

It added that the two injured were being treated in a local hospital, and "local Tatmadaw [army] columns are in hot pursuit of the insurgents".

Officials at the KNU have said they cannot confirm any details surrounding the incident, which is alleged to have taken place yesterday.

"People at the border said they hadn't heard anything about the shooting in that region, only that the government had been doing some logging alongside the river," said KNU spokesperson David Htaw. "In that area there are some KNU troops but I don't think they have been fighting recently."

Joint secretary of the KNU, Saw Hla Ngwe, said that government troops and soldiers from the junta-proxy Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) were active in that area.

Tension between the Burmese army and the KNU escalated in June this year, when troops backed by the DKBA launched an offensive against the KNU.

The government successfully captured two strategically important KNU bases, but the fighting forced around 5,000 Karen civilians into neighbouring Thailand.

The conflict between the KNU and the Burmese government has stretched over six decades, and is thought to be one of the world's longest running.

While the majority of Burma's armed ethnic groups have agreed to somewhat tenuous truces with the government, the KNU has consistently refused.

David Htaw said the accusation could be a "propaganda move by the government" in an attempt to futher undermine the group prior to elections next year, when international attention will be fixed on Burma.

"They want to put the KNU on a terrorist or threat list. Normally they use this to sell their stories to the outside world, and they don't normally accuse the ceasefire groups of doing something like this," he said.

Reporting by Francis Wade

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