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Burmese Military Attacks Karen Settlements


Human rights monitors say the Burmese military has attacked several ethnic Karen civilian settlements in the northeastern part of the country. Aid workers say more than 1,000 villagers have been forced to flee their homes in the past 10 days.

The Committee for Internally Displaced Karen People, based in northern Thailand, says Burmese security forces in mid-November attacked several townships in Karen state, some 40 kilometers from the border with Thailand.

Committee official Saw Steve told VOA that the attacks also destroyed a camp of the Karen National Union, or KNU, which has been fighting the Burmese government for five decades. "The attack is to wipe out the KNU positions and also to wipe out the Karen villagers from the area, because the Karen villagers are also classified as their enemy," she said.

Ms. Saw says security forces destroyed several dozen houses in one village. She said no casualties were reported, but the villagers had to flee into the mountains and lost all their belongings. An official with the Burmese government in Rangoon declined to comment on the report when contacted by telephone.

Analysts say the attacks are part of an annual military operation in the region that begins when the rains end. The operation is aimed at suppressing the Karen rebellion and forcing civilians in the region, who are viewed as sympathizers, into settlements where they can be monitored.

An expert on Burma, political science Professor Sunai Paasul, says the political dialogue between the military government and the opposition National League for Democracy, after a decade of repression, is allowing the government to focus increasingly on the ethnic rebellions in the north. "They seem to have the political legitimacy assurance as a result of this dialogue, but in parallel they also have to quell perhaps the two remaining ethnic rivals," he said.

Refugee officials say that because of the violence several thousand people flee each month. More than 100,000 of them are living in camps in northern Thailand. The Thai government would like the refugees to return home, but they cannot, as long as the situation in northern Burma remains unstable.

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