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Civilians in crossfire running out of food

Apr 22, 2009 (DVB), Civilians living in close proximity to the ongoing battle between Karen rebels and government troops are running low on food, says a senior official in the Karen group.

The latest flare-up between the Karen National Liberation Army, the armed wing of opposition group Karen National Union, and government troops began on 17 April.

The Burmese army is being supported by pro-junta Karen splinter group, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army.

The army is attempting to capture a strategically important KNLA base near to the Thai border.

Villagers living near to KNLA Battalion 201 base, who are now surrounded by Burmese army and DKBA troops, are being forced to work for the army and are running out of food, says Battalion 201 official Captain Kyi Aung.

"The Kanehlay village is near the camp," he said. "Therefore, the enemy [Burmese army] and DKBA have forced them to be porters.

"At the same time the villagers have no food supply. Some dare not stay [in the village], and so are running away."

Villagers in Kanehlay are also unable to go out to work due to the fighting.

The army began attacking KNLA Battalion 201 base, known as Waw Lay Khee, on 6 April, although the battalion has come under repeated fire since late last year.

The Democratic Karen Buddhist Army split from the KNU in 1994 and allied themselves with the government.

Reconciliation talks between the KNU and ruling State Peace and Development Council, whose conflict is thought to be the world's longest running, have been on the cards for some time.

Both sides have agreed in principle to hold discussions, although the KNU have repeatedly stated that they will not disarm.

Reporting by Thurein Soe


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