Scientists in the United States say satellite evidence confirms reports of human rights abuses in eastern Burma between mid-2006 and early 2007.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) says high resolution satellite photos show evidence of destroyed villages, forced relocations and a growing military presence in 25 sites across Karen state and surrounding areas.

Project director Lars Bromley said the non-profit group looked at photos taken before and after reported attacks on ethnic minorities. He said 18 villages had almost entirely disappeared. Others had appeared near a military camp in what researchers concluded was a forced relocation.

The photos confirm accounts researchers received from eye-witnesses and human rights groups. The scientists, who have used similar techniques to investigate abuses in Sudan's Darfur region and Zimbabwe, are supported by the Open Society and John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Fresh fighting was reported in April in eastern Burma, which has been the center of ethnic conflict for years. The rebel Karen National Union has been fighting for an independent homeland along the Thai border for nearly six decades.

U.S. lawmakers rebuked Burma for blocking humanitarian assistance to the region. They claimed the military government destroyed more than 3,000 villages in eastern Burma during a campaign against ethnic Karen rebels.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.