State media blames KNU for bombings

Dec 18, 2009 (DVB), Burma's ruling junta has laid the blame for Wednesday's fatal bombings in Karen state on its longtime foe, the Karen National Union, state media reported today.

The explosion near to Papun, close to the border with Thailand, killed seven people and left 11 injured, according to the junta mouthpiece New Light of Myanmar newspaper.

"It is exposed that the offender is from the KNU terrorists insurgent group that is active in the area between Papun and the border," the article said. "Insurgents plant and detonate bombs on roads and bridges and in busy places and festivities in towns and villages to create public panic."

The claim was flatly rejected by KNU spokesperson David Thackabaw. The armed wing of the KNU, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), has been fighting the Burmese government for more than 60 years.

"It is the work of the [government]; they have an extremely racist policy and they are going to destroy all the traditions and customs of the Karen people," David Thakabaw said. "They will destroy the traditions and customs and culture of all the ethnic people in Burma."

"We never use bombs against civilian targets," he added, acknowledging however that they are used in active warfare against the Burmese army.

Burmese political analyst Aung Naing Oo said that the KNU had been involved in bombings in the past, but that it was rarely clear who is responsible.

"It could be the military, it could be anti-military groups, and it could well be the KNU. I think they are often implicated given their proximity to the area of the bombings," he said.

"What's clear is that with the bombings, especially for opposition groups, no one gets anywhere in terms of politics; just the opposite," he added. "But the military uses the bombings, no matter who does it, to crack down on this and that.

The New Light of Myanmar said that authorities were urging people to "remain vigilant against terrorists in disguise". The bombings had occurred at a celebration for Karen New Year.

The newspaper last month the pointed the finger at the KNU for the killing of three men who were shot whilst on board a passenger ferry on the Salween river, which runs through Karen state.

At the time the KNU said they could not confirm any details surrounding the incident., but said that the Burmese army the allied Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), a KNU splinter group, were also active in that area.

While the majority of Burma's armed ethnic groups have agreed to somewhat tenuous truces with the government, the KNU has consistently refused. Its conflict with the Burmese government is one of the world's longest running.

Reporting by Francis Wade

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