Karen Communities in Mutraw District Call for Withdrawal of Burma Army Troops

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Karen communities have called for the withdrawal of troops from Burmese military camps in Dwelo Township, Mutraw District, in Karen State.

Locals protested the Burma Army’s occupation of the Karen-controlled area—known as Hpapun District in Burmese—on July 22. They asked for the military to abandon four camps operated by MOC-8 in their area, following the murder of local Karen woman Naw Mu Naw by Burma Army soldiers in the village of Poe Loh Hta on July 16.

“We are calling for withdrawal from four military camps in the area,” a local man from Poe Loh Hta told NMG on the condition of anonymity.

The camps in question are Kayko, Mae Wai, Khu Thu Hta and Wor Mu.

“Why local people are demanding this is because they feel they are not safe when they are traveling and working,” the local explained. “People in Wah Tho Kho, Wah Tho Hta and Poe Loh Hta villages have suffered a lot. Therefore, they want the Burma Army to remove all four military camps from their area.”

Villagers have reported that Burma Army troops have shot and killed five villagers in the area in 2020 alone. They included Naw Mu Naw in Poe Loh Hta, villagers in Wah Tho Kho and Ku Seik and a Karen forest ranger in Mae Wai.

The shootings often coincide with clashes with the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA)’s Brigade 5, the armed wing of the Karen National Union (KNU), locals said, adding that they frequently are threatened by Burmese troops.

Saw Sipatraw, who is working in ethnic Karen affairs in Nyaunglebin District, said that the Burma Army violence could negatively impact the peace process, noting that the KNU is a signatory to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) with the government and military.

“Human rights abuses happen in different areas, and we are suffering in the same way,” he told NMG. “We are living in the NCA signatory ethnic armed organization’s area, so we feel so upset to hear about the murder of Naw Mu Naw.”

The Burma Army has reported that they’ve arrested two soldiers who murdered Naw Mu Naw and have said that they will take action against them.

“We want transparency in the investigation of this murder case,” Saw Sipatraw said. “We want international organizations to investigate this murder. Even though they are saying they will take effective action against the perpetrators, we don’t know how they will punish the two perpetrators. We want their investigation to be carried out under media scrutiny. It’s not a small issue. It should not have happened.”

Karen civil society organizations have also called for international human rights organizations to investigate the case.