Thousands set to flee Myanmar violence for Thailand

Thousands of ethnic Karen villagers look poised to flee Myanmar into Thailand if violence escalates in the wake of February's military coup.

Insurgent groups from the Karen, Kachin and others have come out in support of Myanmar's pro-democracy protesters, who have taken to city streets in recent weeks to oppose the return of military rule.

In recent days the coup has rekindled fighting between the military and Karen insurgents near the Thai border, displacing villagers on both sides.

"I had to flee across the river, people say the Burmese will come and shoot us, so we fled here."

The Karen Peace Support Network says over 8,000 villagers are taking shelter on the Myanmar side of the Salween River.

Karen fighters on Tuesday overran a Myanmar army unit on the west bank of the Salween in a pre-dawn attack.

They said over a dozen soldiers were killed.

The Myanmar military responded with air strikes in several areas near the border.

A Thai foreign ministry spokesman says that since the latest round of conflict kicked off, more than 2,000 civilians had crossed into Thailand as of early Friday.

And in Myanmar's north, government forces are also clashing with ethnic Kachin fighters.

Local media reported heavy casualties among government troops in recent days, but a spokesman for the Kachin Independence Army insurgent group said he could not confirm any figures.