Tatmadaw Airstrikes Targets Civilians in Karen State

By Network Media Group
Saturday, May 1, 2021

Fighting in northern Karen State is affecting tens of thousands of villagers, Karen rights groups say. Fresh airstrikes by the Burma Army targeting civilians pushed over 2,000 across the border into Thailand.

“Fighting is happening every day in Karen State. They are (Burma army) attacking civilian villages,” said Naw Wah Khu Shee, spokesperson for Karen Peace Support Network (KPSN).

Almost 50,000 require emergency aid she told NMG, explaining many are hiding in the jungle without food, shelter or medicine between Kama Maung and Hpapun roads.

Burma Army launched new airstrikes after Karen National Union (KNU) Brigade 5 captured its Thaw Le Htar military camp along Salween River in Mutraw District (aka Hpapun District) on April 27.

“Jet fighters dropped bombs on Deh Gwin area. They also attacked civilian villages,” Naw Wah Khu Shee said. If Burma Army continues its airstrikes, KPSN expects at least 8,000 more Karen villagers will flee to Thailand.

Many Karen are hiding in the jungle since Burma Army launched airstrikes last month immediately after KNU captured its Thee Mu Htar camp. When they sought shelter across the border, nearly 3,000 were deported by Thai soldiers.

Naw Wah Khu Shee said Karen refugees who fled to Thailand during recent strikes are afraid of being deported back to their villages. Many are old and sick she said, and some mothers are carrying newborn babies.

“When they ran from their village, they could not bring any food with them. It was rainy and some lost their things in the river.”

At press time, Saw Bwe Doh, from Karen Refugee Committee, couldn’t say exactly how many were affected by the airstrikes from April 27-30. He said the 2,000 residents of Ei Tu Hta IDP (internally displaced person) camp fled their homes, including residents of nearby Mae Nu Htar. Ei Tu Hta was established in 2006 by Karen villagers fleeing fighting between military and KNU in Taungoo and Nyaung Lay Bin Districts.

When the recent airstrikes happened, Ei Tu Hta  and Mae Nu Htar residents sought shelter in Thailand’s Mae Hong Son Province, returning to Karen State on April 29 when they thought it was over. But after Burma Army dropped bombs around Deh Gwin the following morning, Saw Bwe Doh said they cross the Salween River returning to Thailand.

Naw Wah Khu Shee wants Thailand to provide assistance and temporary shelter for refugees with help from international donors. She called on the United Nations to establish a no-fly zone over Mutraw District to protect civilians being targeted by the military.