Loss of Karen bases a 'strategic' move by KNU

June 19, 2009 (DVB), The Burmese army is increasingly susceptible to ambushes from the Karen National Union following the overthrow of a number of Karen bases in recent days, says the Union's joint-secretary.

The offensive between the Burmese army, backed by Karen splinter group the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), and the Karen National Union (KNU), has been raging since 2 June.

Thousands of Karen villagers have fled to Thailand to escape the crossfire and reported forced recruitment into the army.

The KNU has admitted to the loss of three bases to Burmese troops in recent days, although said yesterday that the move was partly tactical.

A base located near to the grave of the late KNU leader, General Mya, was overtaken by the Burmese army last week.

"We opened that spot [for SPDC troops to enter] about three to four days ago and maybe they will arrive today," said Saw Hla Ngwe.

"That place is a good target for artillery firing and we can ambush them when they enter."

He added that the offensive was being used by the government to distract attention from the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi and a warning to ceasefire groups who are failing to comply with government requests to transform in border patrol militias.

So far around 4000 Karen refugees have arrived in Thailand, with many reporting instances of forced recruitment into the army either as porters or to act as minesweepers.

The UN has sent staff to the area to assess the fallout of a conflict that has attracted international attention.

Reporting by Htet Aung Kyaw

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