Karen community groups said fighter jets for two consecutive days fired on Karen villages in northern Mutraw (Papun) district, Karen State, forcing more than 300 people to take refuge in Thailand.
The military regime retaliated with airstrikes after the capture of another frontline base on the Thai-Burma border on April 27, 2021 by the Karen National Liberation Army, the armed wing of the Karen National Union.
Colonel Saw Kler Doh, spokesperson for the KNLA 5th Brigade told Karen News that there were two airstrikes on April 27th and five on April 28.
“Starting from 10am yesterday, the airstrikes began at the area near their military base at Dar Gwin, opposite the Thai border village of Mae Kha Hta. The airstrikes targeted the [Salween] riverbank and the hilltops in those areas. At around 4pm, their rockets even landed on the Thai side of the river bank.”
The Karen Peace Support Network held an online briefing, Thursday 29 April to explain the damage and displacement of civilians caused by the airstrikes.
Naw K’Nyaw Paw, general secretary of the Karen Women Organization explained the situation.
“We were updated last night at 9pm that more than 300 displaced people had crossed into the Thai side of the border. This number is likely to increase as people fear more airstrikes.”
Naw K’Nyaw Paw said the situation is now desperate for these people seeking refuge in Thailand.
“There is no accommodation for them on the Thai side. Mother’s with young infants and elderly people need to be prioritize. The displaced had to do with makeshift shelters, using plastic sheeting above their heads to shelter from the heavy rains.”
Naw K’Nyaw Paw said that everyone who had made the border crossing were documented by Thai soldiers and it is uncertain how long they will be allowed to stay on the Thai side of the border.
“Those people seeking safety in Thailand are the most vulnerable – children, elderly, pregnant and and people with disabilities. People in hiding along the river have had airstrikes aimed at them forcing them to flee to the Thai side.”
The military junta on March 27, 2021 began its airstrike in the KNU’s Mutraw (Papun) district after its Burma Army outpost was overran by KNLA soldiers. On April 27, after KNLA soldiers captured the much larger and newer Burma Army camp, the regime retaliated with airstrikes.
Karen community groups estimated airstrikes have killed 19 villagers, injured 16, and caused damage to 11 houses and two school buildings.
Meanwhile, the military owned, Global New Light Of Myanmar, in its April 28 edition accused the KNLA 5th Brigade of breaking the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement and insisting the KNLA 5th Brigade carried out attacks on its army camp “without obeying the order of the KNU Central Leading Committee.”
In response to the accusation, Colonel Saw Kler Doh said that it is clear the junta is trying to cause division.
“This is just a blatent attempt to cause division between our Brigade 5 and our central leadership or our KNLA HQ. We are following orders from our HQ and all operations are in line with the policies set forth by our HQ.”
The GNLM article failed to point out the National Ceasefire Agreement had been dismissed as a complete failure from the ethnic groups signed to it as the Burma Army continually ignored agreed to protocols and violated the agreement.
The article also reaffirmed the “Tatmadaw (Burma Armed Forces)…will continue border region security necessary to stop anti-insurgency operation.”
The KPSN briefing panel said almost every night, drones were deployed by the regime to scope out areas before airstrikes the following day.
When asked why airstrikes hit civilians despite drone used to gather accurate logistical information about its targets, Saw Thuebee, a panel members said.
“The regime is deliberately targeting civilians. They think hurting the Karen civilians also hurts Karen soldiers who are fighting them. We can clearly see many of the airstrikes and bombardments targeted civilians.”