RANGOON — Nearly 2,000 villagers from eight villages in Karen State’s Hpapun District have fled their homes following an alleged recruitment drive by Brigade No. 5 of the Karen National Union (KNU).
“Both adults and children have fled. They are now staying at Myaing Gyi Ngu. They said they fled out of fear at the prospect of being recruited,” said Maj. Naing Maung Zaw of the Karen State Border Guard Force (BGF), a pro-government armed group.
Locals fled on Saturday and began arriving to the town of Myaing Gyi Ngu on Monday, Naing Maung Zaw told The Irrawaddy.
“We don’t know yet how to accommodate them. There are 12 wards in Myaing Gyi Ngu and for the time being, they are staying at houses there. The Karen State government has taken down a list of them and sent a week’s food supplies,” he said.
A total of 1,985 people from 308 houses in the eight Hpapun District villages have fled the recruitment, the escapees said. The affected villages are in an area under the control of the KNU’s Brigade No. 5, with the Salween River separating them from Myaing Gyi Ngu.
KNU spokesperson Phadoe Mann Nyein Maung, however, denied that the KNU was behind the recruitment effort. “It is not KNU. There is a group called Hpa Pi there. It is recruiting,” he told The Irrawaddy, referring to a faction that broke away from the KNU earlier this year.
A representative from the Karen State government declined to comment on the situation when contacted by The Irrawaddy.
Myaing Gyi Ngu lies in an area previously controlled by the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA), another KNU splinter group, before government troops occupied it in July. The area is currently under the control of the Burma Army and Karen State BGF.
In Karen State, the KNU, Karen National Liberation Army–Peace Council (KNU/KNLA-PC), and DKBA have all agreed to sign a long-sought nationwide ceasefire agreement with the government on Oct. 15.
The accord bars ethnic armed groups from recruiting new members.