The first week of February saw further attacks on civilians in Karen State, Eastern Burma by the country’s ruling dictators. While over 2,000 men, women and children lost their homes, a local health clinic was burned to the ground and 11 schools abandoned due to force.
In order to destabilize communities and weaken support for local freedom fighters, the army often forcibly relocates villages, sending in mortars then heading in on foot to destroy what is left and kill any remaining villagers.
Between February 3-7, at least 46 houses and one clinic were burned to the ground in Toe Hta, while 38 homes were destroyed in Ka Di Mu Der, two areas of Kler Lwe Htoo (Nyaunglebin) District in northern Karen State. These attacks were perpetrated by Light Infantry Batallion (LIB) #362 and LIB #356 of the Burma Army.
Speaking to WIN in the days after, Saw Steve of the Committee for Internally Displaced Karen People (CIDKP) said that “the 2,000 people have fled deep into the jungle where they remain as the Burma Army are still active in the area. They are not close to any source of water and are sleeping in the wild.”
WIN recently received other reports that three Burma Army battalions have been moved into the region and are in combat with the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA). It is unlikely that the region will be safe for return within the week. A spokesperson for the Karen Department of Health and Welfare (KDHW), which administers the destroyed clinic, spoke to WIN of his deep concern for the displaced people’s lack of food and other materials.
“Firstly they need food, that is the number one thing and we encourage any support anyone can offer us or CIDKP in this regard. After that they need medicine, materials for shelter and then once they return they will need to start from scratch collecting utensils and pots and pans and other household things.”
The KDHW operate a mobile clinic service, which is adaptable to the constant need to flee settlements and start over.
“The mobile clinic concept means that if the villagers are forced to move location because of attack, our health workers will always move with them. In the same way, if upon return they decide that it is not safe to stay – usually due to landmine cultivation – the health workers move with them to the new site.”
These reports came shortly after a local trader was murdered on the Salween River that borders Thailand and Burma. Saw Law Ray Htoo was shot by Burma Army soldiers while traveling downstream by boat on February 5.
WIN has also received reports that the 2,000 or more IDPs displaced in similar attacks between January 17 and 19, remain in hiding in the jungle, many also in Kler Lwe Hto District.
Kim, on the border
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