Thai villagers threatened in Karen offensive

June 12, 2009 (DVB), A Burmese junta-backed militia group involved in the offensive against the Karen National Union near the Thai-Burma border has reportedly threatened to shell Thai villagers if they don't supply them with food.

Thousand of Karen have fled into Thailand over the past week following attacks by the government, backed by the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), against the Karen National Union.

Up to 6000 people are believed to have crossed into Thailand and are now holed up in makeshift camps along the border.

Medical group the Free Burma Rangers (FBR) said yesterday that DKBA troops had threatened villagers in Thailand's Noh Bo village with artillery bombardments unless they supply food to support them in their attack.

The threat reportedly came on 8 June after the DKBA had begun shelling a location near to Noh Bo.

"As far as I know this is an unusual threat to villagers actually in Thailand, [although] it's not uncommon for [the DKBA] to demand food and supplies from villagers inside Thailand," said a FBR spokesperson.

Noh Bo is located across the border from Ler Per Har refugee camp in Karen state, which has been a focal point for artillery attacks from the Burmese army. This is not the first time Noh Bo has been attacked, said the FBR spokesperson.

"I think people there are taking [the threat] seriously , [the DKBA] have the ability to do it and I guess people there are not seeing it as an idle threat," he said.

Yesterday three artillery shells fired by the Burmese army landed on Thai soil, although no injuries were reported.

The crisis has attracted attention from both the United Nations and the European Union.

The Czech EU president yesterday voiced "serious concern" about the fighting and called for an immediate ceasefire, stressing that "authorities should refrain from seeking military solutions against the ethnic minorities".

The UN has reportedly sent staff to the areas in Thailand where Karen villagers are seeking refuge.

Reporting by Francis Wade

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