Page last updated at 12:17 GMT, Thursday, 11 June 2009 13:17 UK

Burma's Karen unable to return home

More than 4,000 ethnic Karen in eastern Burma have fled to Thailand after renewed fighting between Burmese government forces and Karen rebels.

We are illegal here and eventually we'll have problems with the Thai authorities
Rainbow, Karen refugee

Many of those who have fled over the past week were living at the Ler Per Her camp for internally displaced people in Burma - and had already left their home villages.

Rainbow, who is the secretary of the camp and the headmaster of the school there, told the BBC News website about what is forcing the Karen to flee and the difficult circumstances they now face:

Last week government troops attacked our camp. They were shelling every day. The fighting between the Burmese army and the Karen rebels was taking place close to the camp. It became a dangerous place. So we decided to leave.

There were 1,264 people living in the camp. Since October 2008 we've had about 300 new arrivals.

The Democratic Karen Buddhist Amy (DKBA) [allied to the Burmese army] have been trying to force people in the area to join them in the last few months.

They wanted to be in control of the area and they needed more people.

In order to put pressure on villagers they put mines close to rice fields. To avoid being recruited to the army, many have abandoned their homes and farms and gone to live in camps for internally displaced people.

Farms are abandoned and homes burnt down.

No place to go

There are over 3,000 people now in different places on the Thai side of the border.

Karen child  in Thailand, Photo: Karen Human Rights Group
The exodus of the last week is thought to be the largest one in a decade

There are more than 1,000 of us in this village. We are being taken care of for now, but it's really difficult as there are too many people and not enough accommodation. It's very crowded and it's constantly raining.

But there's nothing we can do. We are just waiting to see what will happen.

We are in a very difficult situation. We can't go back because the military has taken over our camp.

But we can't stay here for long either. We are illegal here and eventually we'll have problems with the Thai authorities.

We can only hope that we'll be able to go home soon.

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