April 19, 2021

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Myanmar army air raids on Karen force 3,000 to flee for Thailand

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Aerial assault comes after group controlling southeastern state condemned February 1 coup and announced support for public resistance.

Some 3,000 people from Myanmar’s southeastern Karen state have fled to neighbouring Thailand following air attacks by the army on an area held by an ethnic armed group, according to activists and local media reports.

The military launched air raids on five areas in Mutraw district near the border, including a displacement camp, the Karen Women’s Organization said on Sunday.

“At the moment, villagers are hiding in the jungle as more than 3,000 crossed to Thailand to take refuge,” a statement from the group said.

“We demand an international response to the atrocities taking place to send the message that the military cannot longer act with impunity,” it added.

Thai PBS also reported about 3,000 had reached Thailand.

There was no immediate comment by Thailand’s authorities.

The air assaults are the most significant attack for years in the region controlled by the Karen National Union (KNU).

The armed group signed a ceasefire agreement in 2015 but tensions have surged after the military overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian government in a February 1 coup.

The KNU and the Restoration Council of Shan State, also based on the Thai border, have condemned the military’s takeover and announced their support for public resistance.

KNU says it has been sheltering hundreds of people who have fled central Myanmar in the face of an increasingly deadly crackdown against security forces in recent weeks.

The country has been in turmoil since the military overthrew and detained Aung San Suu Kyi, triggering an enormous uprising demanding a return to democracy.

The military has defended its power grab, citing allegations of fraud in the November election which Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won by a landslide.

Security forces have increasingly cracked down with lethal force on demonstrations against the coup in recent weeks, using tear gas, rubber bullets and live rounds to break up rallies.

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