The Burma Army advanced into Karen National Union controlled areas resulting in fighting with the Karen National Liberation Army. Villagers have been displaced in their tens of thousands as they flee the fighting. Villages are deserted as the Burma Army advances and farmland, crops and livestock left unattended as people look to find safety elsewhere.
Displaced villagers in the southern part of Kawkareik are dependent on their paddy farm and long term plantations – crops such as peanuts, corn, sesame have been unable to be cared for. Now is the time villagers in the area harvest their corn and sesame crops, they are unable to do so as they’ve been forced to abandon their farming and their domestic animals have scattered.
A resident from An Pha Gyi village, who has been affected by the increased militarization, spoke to Karen News (on condition of anonymity) explaining villagers have lost all means of income as running and fleeing for their lives became a priority.
“Some of our paddy is already ripe. It’s time to harvest, but we don’t have time for that and some peanut farmers have also not harvested their crop yet. We are afraid our livestock – cows, goats -will starve when there is no one to feed them. So we set them free and they went into the fields and destroyed everything [crops]. No one dares to go back and check on the plantations because we are afraid that we will be forced to be porters [for Burma Army] – we have lost everything.”
Since January 6, Burma Army soldiers entered the southern part of Kawkareik and more than 10,000 villagers from 27 villages including Kawt Nwe, Maung Ma, Ang Pha Gyi, Sakawet, Azun, Ywar Tan Shay and Thone Set Thone Su villages were displaced. Some villagers fled to friends and relatives in other areas, while others have been displaced and are now running from place to place depending on the fighting.
Community right groups and local villagers reported Burma Army troops are occupying both the compound in Kamai Gone Monastery and An Pha Lay village. The Burma Army soldiers are stealing and eating the villagers’ livestock – chicken, ducks and pigs.
A KNU Kawkreik Township official told Karen News the Burma Army troops are inactive during the day, but increase their patrols at night making it risky for displaced communities to move around.
“The Burma Army military operation has reached An Pha Gyi villages. During the day, they are quiet. They are active at night when they’re moving around – it’s risky for civilians to move around or try to find food.”
Burma Army troops advancing into the KNU territories are from the Infantry Battalion IB#230, IB#23 and Light Infantry Battalion – LIB#545 and LIB#546 under Division 22. Karen News is led to understand that the Burma Army have taken up positions near An Pha Lay and An Pha Gyi villages in Kawkareik Township, Karen State.