Fighting between Burma Army and Karen soldiers in northern Karen State forced hundreds of villagers from their home into jungle hideouts while the State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi is touring Karen State.
Ceasefire violations by Burma Army had caused tensions with Karen National Liberation Army soldiers in its 5th Brigade area in Mutraw [Papun] district in the northern Karen State. As many as 300 villagers were driven from their homes by Burma Army shelling. A local Karen National Union leader estimated another 2,000 more villagers are on the brink of running to escape the fighting.
Saw Robin Moo, secretary of the KNU’s Mutraw District told Karen News that since early February 2020, more than 300 villagers had already been displaced by increased Burma Army operations in the area.
“The impact from the fighting is spreading and includes more village tracts now. We have a list of more than 2,000 villagers both who had fled their homes and who are on high alert, ready to flee. If further fighting takes place these villagers will be forced to run for safety as they are in grave danger,” said Saw Robin Moo.
Information collected by Karen community based groups said the effected populations are in Pla Kho, Yeh Mu Plaw and Kay Pu village tract in Lu Thaw Township of Mutraw (Papun) district. A total of 2,137 people from 253 households, including 417 children under five are at severe risk from the shelling and fighting.
Karen community based groups from the area also documented that on the first week of February the Burma Army had fired artillery shells into Taku Der village forcing villagers from their homes.
A Burma Army spokeperson, Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun, was reported by national media on February 11, denying the shelling of Karen villages and said his soldiers had responded with shelling in retaliation of KNLA attacks on Burma Army frontline troops.
The KNU has rejected Burma Army road construction in its Mutraw district. It is not the first time the Burma Army road construction in KNU controlled areas has been the cause of fighting. The KNU allege the Burma Army is violating the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement and it is this which is the causing of tensions between the two sides.
In a press conference conducted by the Burm Army’s ‘true news team’ in Nay Pyi Daw on Feburary 22, a spokesperson accused the KNU of being narrow-minded on the issue of the road construction in the Papun area.
Local community leaders in Mutraw district said the displaced villagers included older people who are facing health difficulties and and school terms were disrupted for children. The local community leaders have reported the difficulties to the KNU central level to try to solve the problems.
The Karen Women Organization on February 24 condemn the attacks and called for the displaced people to be have access to humanitarian aid and be allowed to safely return to their villages.
Naw K’nyaw Paw, secretary of the KWO spoke to Karen News about the current condition of the displaced villagers.
“Mutraw district officials are providing safety for the villagers, but they are having difficulties as their regular food supply has been disrupted. The weather is still cold and people have to make fire at night to keep warm and that’s risky. Women, children and older people are suffering.”