Mon 27 Mar 2006
Filed under: Inside Burma,News
March 25: Bangkok: Thousands of ethnic Karen villagers have fled attacks by Myanmar’s military, a rebel group said Saturday, in fighting that analysts said could be aimed at protecting the junta’s new capital.
The military has since February been shelling villages, burning down crops and homes, and laying landmines in districts about 90 kilometers (60 miles) southeast of the junta’s new administrative capital Pyinmana, the rebel Karen National Union said in a statement.
“For that reason, thousands of Karen people in Toungoo and Nyaunglaybin districts have to flee from their homes and villages,” the KNU said.
Aung Naing Oo, an exiled Myanmar academic who monitors the fighting from neighboring Thailand, said the military appeared to be trying to protect Pyinmana from possible attack.
“Under the pretext of securing the perimeter for Pyinmana, the new capital, the military has been launching offensives against the villages in the Toungoo area,” he said.
He said the military has been laying landmines in the region, and said he had received reports of bridges being destroyed.
“They’re paranoid about the security,” Aung Naing Oo said. “Militarily, the KNU and other groups cannot physically threaten the junta leaders.”
The military government in November made a shock announcement that it was building a new administrative capital and military headquarters in Pyinmana, a remote mountain town 320 kilometers (200 miles) north of Yangon.
The junta plans to hold its first major event in Pyinmana on Monday, when it conducts its annual military parade there for the annual Armed Forces Day ceremony.
The KNU is the largest of several rebel groups battling Yangon in one of the world’s longest-running insurgencies.
The KNU and the government had reached a “gentleman’s agreement” in 2004 to stop the fighting while peace talks were underway, but later that year the junta called off the talks after a shake-up in the government.