Fighting closes 14 schools

Fighting between Border Guard Force factions forced 14 village schools in Hlaingbwe Township area to close.

The fighting erupted after breakaway fighters and Border Guard Force soldiers loyal to the Burma Army clashed.

The renegade faction unhappy with demands and controls exerted on the BGF by the Burma Army, reformed under their old flag – the Democratic
Karen Buddhist Army. The newly created BGF, was meant to unarm, reduce the number of soldiers in the armed ceasefire groups and bring them under the direct control of the Burma Army, has backfired with armed clashes in Kachin, Shan and Karen States. Many of the armed ceasefire groups are reluctant to surrender their arms, local power and ethnic identities to the Burma Army.

The Karen Teacher Working Group this week said shelling by Burma army units and BGF aligned to them are attacking villages in the Hlaingbwe area. The KTWG say the two groups, the DKBA and the Burma army’s BGF units are fighting everyday.

Saw Paukla, a medic with the former BGF, told KTWG that all schools in the area have been closed because of the shelling.

Saw Paukla, now a medic with the DKBA explained about the fighting to Karen News.

“The BGF takes up high positions and randomly fires mortars into every area they regard as suspicious that DKBA troops maybe hiding, regardless of civilians. They have bombed houses. Villagers are frightened and have moved to other areas. All the schools have been closed now.”

The renegade BGF of 1,000 fighters is commanded by Major Saw Beeh.
Major Saw Beeh in an exclusive interview with Karen News explained why he broke with the BGF and the Burma Army.

“After we joined the BGF we were not allowed to have anything Karen. No ceremonies, no Karen insignia on our new uniforms. We know the Burma Army regard the DKBA as their enemy, if they want to think like that we are prepared to fight them.”

Saw Paukla said because of the constant fighting, many parents have withdrawn their children from school and moved to other areas.

The wife of a former BGF fighter confirmed Saw Paukla’s statement.

“Since my husband defected from BGF, I’ve taken my children out of school. The kids are not aware of the danger from the fighting.”

Naw Bleh Bleh, a 7 Grade student from Myaing Gyi Ngu area who left her school to avoid being caught in the fighting said.

“I miss my classmates. I don’t know where they are now. I also don’t know whether we will still to continue school or not. I hope I can attend my school with all my classmates again.”

More than a hundred villagers have already evacuated from the fighting areas and have arrived on the Thai border in Tha Song Yang district looking for safety.

The villages affected by the fighting are: Meh Kwee Hta, Law Pu, Wei Pyah, Wah Ta Moo, Meh Hsay, Meh Law Hta, Htee La Nae, Yaw Po, Ta Kwi Kla, Thray Poe Kwi, Ka Ma Hta, Kwi Lay, P’nweh Tha Kla (Ywa Thit) and Hti Per.

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