The Burma Army incursions into territory under the control of the KNU resulted in combat with the Karen National Liberation Army. The Burma Army’s operations began in late 2021 causing local villagers to flee.
In early 2022, the Burma Army used airstrikes and ground artillery to displace over 20,000 villagers from the southern Myawaddy areas and from the southern Kawkareik areas.
On 7 March 2022, the KNU sent a letter demanding the Burma Army order its troops to leave its territories. The Burma Army responded with attacks in the central Karen State areas of Myawaddy Township, Kawkareik Township and along the Myawaddy-Kawkareik Asia Highway.
A community aid worker working to deliver assistance to the displaced villagers said the increased displacement has also increased the urgent need for supplies for the homeless villagers.
“Since early March, we have seen increased displacement in Lay Kay Kaw areas and Kawkareik areas as the fighting intensified. Villagers are seeking temporary safety at temples or churches in other safer villages in large numbers. In most cases, they couldn’t bring anything with them. They need food, shelters and other essential goods.”
In Kyar-In South village located in Kawkareik Township, villagers have been forced to flee their villages due to indiscriminate heavy artillery shelling by the Burma Army.
A Kyar-In South villager said the Burma Army fired several artillery shells into the village after fighting between the Burma Army soldiers and local Karen National Defense Organization (KNDO) on 11 March 2022 – unprotected villagers feared further airstrikes.
A resident of Kyar-In South village told Karen News, “We sent our children to another village, as we don’t know what the situation will be. I am worried that the fighting will intensify. Heavy artillery is frequently fired into the village. I am also scared that they will carry out an airstrike as they have been using aircraft. As they [Burma Army] often fired heavy artillery into the village, we could no longer stay and were forced to flee.”
As a result of the heavy artillery shelling by the Burma Army, villagers from Kyar-In North, Kyar-In South, Laung Kaing, Naung Talar, and Phar Kya villages had to flee to other villages for their safety.
Karen community based groups report the Burma Army had displaced as many as 144,000 villagers in seven KNU controlled districts.