Resistance forces in southeast Myanmar’s Kayah (Karenni) State have barred people from entering Hpruso Town as of November 28, because of the risk posed to civilians by landmines planted by junta troops.
Citing previous cases of internally displaced persons (IDPs) injured in landmine blasts as they tried to return to their homes, as well as the detention of civilians by the Myanmar military for forced labor, the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force (KNDF) and People’s Defense Force (PDF) Hpruso said the restriction will remain in place until further notice.
A KNDF information officer said: “It is partly because displaced people can step on landmines planted by the regime when they return to their villages to find food. And it is almost the dry season now, so the regime might be sending food supplies to their troops, which means local people may encounter junta convoys. That’s why we imposed the restriction.”
At least four IDPs have been injured by junta landmines while returning to Hpruso, according to the KNDF information officer.
One IDP who wants to return to Hpruso to fetch food and other items from his home said he was put off from doing so by the risk of landmines.
“We are facing food shortages and we want to check if our houses are OK, as we have been away from them for a long time. But we haven’t dared return since we heard about the landmine explosions,” he said.
The majority of Hpruso’s residents were forced from their homes in December last year.
The information office of PDF-Hpruso said: “It has been a year since the town was deserted. Some people want to return and check their houses. So we have imposed the restriction. One resident was injured two weeks ago. Landmines are everywhere and it is not safe to walk. And Hpruso is surrounded by junta bases and we can’t guarantee the safety of the people.”
Two light infantry battalions and a military training school are based in Hpruso, while military regime troops are also stationed at the township police station.
KNDF Battalion 15 and the Karenni Army carried out joint surprise attacks on a junta outpost and the military training school on November 25 and 26. Four regime soldiers were killed, while resistance fighters suffered no casualties, said KNDF Battalion 15.
On November 1, the Progressive Karenni People’s Force said that 282 civilians have been killed and 1,247 houses damaged in Kayah State since last year’s coup, while the region has also suffered 173 air attacks by regime planes.