Food Shortages Force Locals in Hpapun Region to Flee their Homes

In the Mutraw (Hpapun) region of Karen State, access to both land and waterways has been restricted, causing a shortage of essential food supplies in Hpapun Township. The residents are forced to flee their homes due to a shortage of rice, making it increasingly unbearable for the local population to endure these conditions.

According to a resident of Hpapun, starting in late 2022, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) has blocked the Military Council’s food transportation route along the road in the area. This disruption has prevented locals from working in their fields, resulting in a scarcity of rice in the area, and increasing the struggle for families to support themselves. This has resulted in some residents resorting to selling their land and farms with the hope of migrating to countries such as Thailand and Malaysia.

A resident shared with KIC, “The roads are completely blocked, the food is scarce.The situation is extremely daunting, as there is no sustenance available. Rice and cooking oil have been absent for an extended period. Cultivating rice in the fields has become impractical. Currently the town has seen a significant exodus, with many residents departing for Thailand and Malaysia. Others have resorted to selling their homes and land due to the prevailing hunger. Those who remain, especially those facing financial difficulties, are grappling with various hardships.”

Due to the lack of transportation and the shortage of basic food items such as rice, oil, and salt, local people have pursued various alternatives. According to Hpapun residents, some individuals have sought work in nearby townships like Hpa-An and Mawlamyine, which are close to Hpapun Township.

According to Hpapun residents, the Military Council troops, grappling with the disruption of the rice supply route, have been forcibly appropriating rice from upland farmers in the Hpapun urban area and surrounding villages, without any form of payment.

A day laborer mentioned that Hpapun Township once had reliable transportation and an ample supply of essential food items. However, due to the ongoing conflict, job opportunities have become scarce in the township, making it challenging for families to sustain themselves.

“Last year, we had the convenience of traveling by both land and water routes, which made it easy to earn a living. But now landmines have made the overland journey unsafe. Even though it was possible to transport goods on a motorcycle, the ongoing conflict has made it too dangerous. I used to drive a truck, transporting goods from Hpapun to Kamarmaung and Hpa-An, and the gate fees were reasonable. But now, there are no job opportunities. With the roads closed, I’m doing whatever work I can find here. I’m not thinking beyond the immediate need to provide food and sustenance for my family on a daily basis,” he shared with KIC.

Reports from KNU-Mutraw District also indicate that military council troops, stationed in villages near Hpapun Township, have resorted to forcibly extracting money, household items, rice, and domesticated animals from the residences of local residents.

Since last year several Junta camps within the territory of the 5th KNU Brigade have been subject to attack and capture. Furthermore, departmental offices, such as the Military Council camp and administrative office in Hpapun Township, have experienced frequent attacks by KNLA joint forces.

Similarly, the KNU has stated that, as a result of warnings given to Military Council employees in Hpapun Township, instructing them to evacuate their departmental offices, the administrative operations of the Military Council within Hpapun Township have ceased to function.

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