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Myanmar accuses West of backing ethnic rebels

The ethnic Karen rebels have been a target of a bloody four-month offensive in Myanmar.

india Updated: May 31, 2006 15:03 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse

Myanmar's military government on Wednesday accused western nations of backing ethnic Karen rebels who have been the target of a bloody four-month offensive.

"It is very disheartening to see the master hands from the West trying to control the political situation in Myanmar by using the KNUs and supporting, as always, whatever the latter do," the official New Light of Myanmar newspaper said.

The Karen National Union is fighting one of the world's longest-running insurgencies in eastern Myanmar, near the Thai border.

But they have suffered a series of setbacks in recent years, and an offensive that began in February has forced some 11,000 people from their homes, according to rights groups.

About 2,000 of them have fled into Thailand to join the 140,000 refugees from Myanmar who already live in camps along the border, according to the UN refugee agency.

"The Western masterminds always stand by the KNUs. They do so not for the sake of Myanmar and (Karen) nationals and for democracy and human rights but for their own interests -- politically and militarily," the official paper said, accusing the KNU of "ethnic cleansing".

The military has reached ceasefires with 17 other ethnic armed groups, but talks with the KNU fell apart two years ago and have yet to resume.

The two sides had reached a "gentlemen's agreement" to stop fighting until a ceasefire was hammered out.

Both sides insist they remain open to talks, even as the military presses ahead with its offensive.

Although the KNU once controlled a vast stretch of Karen state, the Myanmar military has made steady gains in recent years, leaving the rebels with little more than a string of bases mainly along the Thai border.

Myanmar has faced mounting pressure to halt its offensive, with rights groups denouncing its tactics.

The KNU has battled the regime for 57 years to fight for autonomy for their people. More than a dozen other ethnic minorities have waged similar campaigns.

Rights groups have long accused the military of a litany of abuses, including rape, use of child soldiers, forced labour, and forced relocations.

First Published: May 31, 2006 15:03 IST

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