Myanmar air strikes have driven more people along the border with Thailand and Myanmar. Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Thai Soldier Sits in Front of Blocked Road Leading to Thailand-Myanmar Border Where Fighting Continues Between Myanmar Army and Ethnic Minority Rebels, December 19, 2021 REUTERS / Athit Perawongmetha

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Myanmar’s military has carried out several airstrikes in a rebel-held area near the Thai border, the rebel group said on Friday, in the latest escalation of violence that has led hundreds to flee to Thailand.

The Karen National Union (KNU) said the military launched at least two airstrikes and fired several artillery shells at an area under its control near the border with Thailand and Myanmar late Thursday.

A Reuters reporter in Mae Sot, a Thai border town some 15km (10 miles) from where the airstrikes allegedly took place, heard several explosions on Thursday night around 11pm local time.

A spokesman for the Myanmar military junta did not respond to calls for comment.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the army ousted a civilian government led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1, sparking protests and sporadic clashes in the countryside between anti-junta militias and the military.

Fresh fighting between the Myanmar army and the KNU erupted last week, with more than 4,200 people moving to Thailand since the violence began, the Thai Foreign Ministry said. Civil society groups say the number of displaced is as high as 10,000.

KNU spokesman Saw Taw Nee told Reuters that the airstrikes had further displaced more civilians living in the area and reiterated his group’s call to the international community to establish a no-fly zone https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific / myanmar-rebel-group-calls-no-fly-zone-protect-civilians-2021-12-22 in the area.

Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanee Sangrat told a news conference Friday that Thailand was concerned about the latest violence in the state of Karen, which has also affected Thais living along the border.

Several foreign envoys in Myanmar, including the EU, Britain and the United States, issued a joint statement Friday calling for an end to “indiscriminate attacks” by the military in Karen State and elsewhere.

“Recent attacks on civilians in Karen State, including the shelling of villages, are a violation of international humanitarian law and must be stopped,” they said.

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