Myanmar's army began its offensive against the Karen National Union (KNU) on June 2 and fighting intensified Friday when some 900 Myanmar and DKBA troops launched multiple 81- millimetre mortars on the Per Her camp near the Thai-Myanmar border, Karen sources said.
The Thailand-based Free Burma Rangers said yesterday that refugees began streaming out of the Ler Per Her camp in Karen state on Friday – one of the largest movements of refugees across the border in a decade.
In a statement, the Free Burma Rangers called the shelling "a serious attack on defenseless people who fled just to get to the camp and now have had to flee over the border." It said as many as 4,000 refugees had fled to Thailand.
Thai Army Lt. Gen. Tanongsak Apirakyotin, who oversees the border region, acknowledged that fighting was ongoing and that since Wednesday refugees began coming across the Thai border. But he put the numbers of refugees at around 1,200.
The Karen Human Rights Group said the influx was "the largest exodus from Karen state on a single occasion" since the government launched a major offensive against the Karen rebels in 1997.
The refugees are now taking shelter about 100 km (62 miles) north of Mae Sot, a Thai border town.
The KNU, the country's biggest rebel group, has been fighting for independence in the hills of eastern Myanmar for the last 60 years. The conflict is one of the world's longest running insurgencies.
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