- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 5, 2002

From combined dispatches
BANGKOK Three masked gunmen opened fire on a Thai school bus near the border with Burma yesterday, killing two teen-age students and wounding 15 others.
The attack threatened to deepen the enmity between neighbors Thailand and Burma.
Burma's military government yesterday said it was poised for an attack on ethnic Shan rebels near the Thai border and warned Bangkok to stay out of the battle or face retaliation.
Burma accuses Thailand of supporting ethnic Shan and Karen armies fighting the junta's rule, a charge Bangkok has denied.
Relations between the Southeast Asian neighbors have deteriorated since a shelling incident last month along their 1,300-mile border, where fighting between Burma's government and rebels often spills over into Thailand. Burma sealed major border crossings following the incident.
A senior Thai defense official said the shooting in Ratchaburi province, about 12 miles from Burma, was probably carried out by one of Burma's ethnic minority guerrilla groups and may have been intended to "create more misunderstanding" between Thailand and Burma.
The bus was carrying about 20 junior high school students when it came under a hail of bullets as it was climbing a steep road in the mountainous jungle district of Suan Phung.
The gunmen, armed with M-16 automatic rifles and wearing hoods and military fatigues, looked like rebels from Burma's Karen ethnic minority and apparently escaped back into Burma, police and local officials said.
A spokesman for the main Karen rebel group fighting Burma's government denied involvement and speculated that Burma's military junta may have been behind the attack.
"We are faithful friends of Thailand," Mahn Sha, secretary-general of Karen National Union, told the Associated Press.
But Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra told reporters he did not believe that Burmese soldiers or Karen rebels were to blame for the attack.
"I do not believe that it was done either by Myanmar soldiers or the Karen KNU group because around 80 percent of Thai children living in the area are Karen by descent," Mr. Thaksin told reporters. Myanmar is the Rangoon ruling junta's name for Burma.

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