Villagers face fighting, malaria, hunger and displacement

Recent fighting between a breakaway Border Guard Force faction and a group under the control of the Burma Army drove more than 130 villagers in Hlaingbwe Township region from their homes. The villagers are now seeking temporary safety along the Thai Burma border. The fighting in Hlaingbwe Township area is the latest in a series of clashes between the two groups.

The renegade BGF faction unhappy with demands and controls exerted on them by the Burma Army, reformed under their old flag – the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army. The BGF was introduced to unarm, reduce the number of soldiers in the armed ceasefire groups and to 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 refuse to surrender their arms, local authority and give away their ethnic identities to the Burma Army.

The displaced villagers are now short of food and have little to survive on aside from some rice given by the DKBA. Saw Paukla, a DKBA medic told Karen News that people are depending on the village monastery for food.

“There has been no aid given to them. We can only give them two or three kilograms of rice. Some have to go to monastery for their meals.”

The villages affected by the fighting are Yaw Po, Ta Kwi Kla, Ka Ma Hta and P’newh Tha Kla.

Saw Paukla explained that due to inadequate shelter and the heavy monsoon rains, many villagers have no resistance to mosquitos and have caught malaria.

“Many people are suffering from malaria, not only those villagers who had to run from their homes, but also DKBA soldiers and other local villagers here. It is not the ordinary type, it is the severe type that many people have got and they need urgent treatment.”

Saw Paukla said villagers are now taking refuge in relatives’ or friends’ homes in Mae Tha Waw village on the Thai border.
Saw Nay Htoo, a program director with the Burma Medical Association, says medical supplies are needed for this population.

The recent fighting has also forced 14 village schools to close in villages of 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.

Humanitarian groups working on the Thai Burma border are worried that if conflicts continue more villagers from Burma will have to cross into Thailand for their safety.

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