Friday, 15 November 2019

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700 Karen refugees from junta attacks need emergency aid

New Delhi (Mizzima) – More than 700 war refugees in Karen State who fled into the forest towards the Thai border after junta army units shelled and burned down their villages, one of them a Christian centre, now need emergency food and medical aid, a Karen leader has said.

The Burmese Army’s Light Infantry Battalions 370 and 361 bombarded a Christian village with about 40 mortar shells on July 23, damaging at least 50 homes, a church and a middle school, the Karen National Union (KNU), which is waging armed struggle against the military regime, said.

“We had no engagement or clashes with them. They shot and bombarded only this village. The villagers had to hide in the forest. According to the latest fugures we received, there are more than 700 refugees who have taken flight from their villages”, KNU vice-chairman David Tharkapaw said.

“They had to flee with no spare clothes and food. Especially in this monsoon season, the fever and common cold is endemic and the shortage of food is serious. We can’t as yet provide with them with emergency food and medical aid”, he added.

A report yesterday on the website of the Independent Catholic News service, which has correspondents on the Thailand-Burma border, supported Tharkapaw’s assessment, including the numbers of homes shelled and burned, and named the bombed village, Thadahder.

“It is the rainy season in Eastern Burma and those in hiding are in desperate need of shelter, food, medicine and security. Lack of clean water and the prevalence of disease-carrying insects in the jungle are of particular concern,” the report said.

A local former military officer said this village was regarded as one hidden in a black area, though the attack could not yet been independently verified, apart from the ICN report.

“Black area means all the persons found in this area will be assumed [by junta troops] as friend or foe only, no neutral people”, he added. “They can burn all the houses found in the black area. They can kill anyone found in this area.”

“They can also plant landmines … These activities will not get them in any trouble. They can be even promoted for … strictly obeying orders given by higher authorities”, he added.

The junta’s Chief of Staff office had standing orders for all its forces to destroy all “hidden villages” found in such “black areas” by burning them down, he said.

The Burmese Army is infamous for such blatant violations of human rights against ethnic nationalities.

With news of impending Burmese Army offensives in Karen State, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), which has been operating under a ceasefire agreement with the junta,  has been under increasing pressure to bring its troops under the junta’s Border Guard Force (BGF), an “offer” some DKBA factions have rejected.

The KNU however had recently stepped in to offer Colonel Saw Lar Pei, a prominent leader of one such faction, armed support when the junta attacks, Tharkapaw said.

“He doesn’t want to join the BGF so SPDC [junta] forces have been putting pressure on his force. When their pressure tactic doesn’t work, they [SPDC troops] plan to launch an attack … in co-operation with some pro-junta DKBA factions,” Tharkapaw said.

“We plan to give military support to Colonel Saw Lar Pei when the junta attacks his force,” he said, adding that “we will receive him back if he [chooses to] rejoin his mother organisation, the KNU.”


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