Myanmar Regime Forces Shell Refugee Camp as Woman Gives Birth
By The Irrawaddy 26 January 2022
It was a cold night in December. A shrill cry rang out from a camp for internally displaced people (IDP) in Karen State, close to the Moei River which separates Myanmar from Thailand. It was the first cry of a newborn. Immediately, the sound of the crying was drowned out by deafening artillery strikes.
The baby boy was born on December 21 last year at an IDP camp in Palu Lay Village on the Thai-Myanmar border in Karen State. He has not yet been named, but everyone at the camp calls him ‘Displaced’ as he was born amid the fighting that displaced the villagers from their homes.
On December 19, two days before his birth, junta troops and local resistance groups clashed near Palu Gyi Village, forcing the residents to flee their homes amid artillery strikes and to the accompaniment of heavy gunfire.
Regime soldiers had previously raided the new town of Lay Kay Kaw on the Myanmar-Thai border on December 15, firing 60 mm and 120 mm grenade launchers at neighboring villages before conducting artillery and airstrikes.
Some houses were hit by the shelling and tens of thousands of people from several villages fled into Thailand. Others fled to the refugee camps for IDPs at Palu Gyi and Palu Lay villages near the Moei River.
The clashes spread to Palu Gyi Village on December 19, forcing 23-year-old Naw Kaw Kay, from neighboring Palu Lay Village, who was very close to giving birth, to flee with only the clothes on her back to an IDP camp some distance from her village.
But that camp had no clinic, so Naw Kaw Kay was forced to return to another IDP camp near Palu Lay Village. She was experiencing contractions by the time she arrived at the makeshift clinic that had been set up at the camp on the evening of December 21. Soon after, she gave birth to her second son at 11pm amid continuous artillery fire.
She had a difficult labor as she was exhausted from fleeing, the baby was big and the clinic had only rudimentary medical equipment. Despite the fact that it was late at night in December, both the mother and the medics were drenched in sweat as the baby was a few days overdue and the labor was long.
“I heard artillery fire. But I didn’t notice anything else as I was overwhelmed by pain. But my weariness just went away when I knew that it was a baby boy. I had wanted one more son,” said Naw Kaw Kay.
The clinic at the IDP camp is named after the Spring Revolution and is operated by volunteer doctors and medics who provide emergency healthcare for people injured in the fighting.
Normally, the clinic transfers people with serious injuries or illnesses and heavily pregnant women over the border to Thailand, where there are properly-equipped healthcare facilities. But Naw Kaw Kay’s pregnancy was overdue, so Displaced was born at the clinic.
The same night, a baby was born at an IDP camp on the Thai side of the border. He was delivered by Thai medics from Mae Sot Hospital in an emergency birth. He was named ‘Friendship’ by the Thai medics.
When Displaced was born, his father was away at the frontline fighting the military regime alongside other resistance fighters. He was only told the next morning about the birth of his second son.
“As he was at the front line, I could not call him immediately after the birth,” said Naw Kaw Kay who, soon after giving birth, had to be moved to a safer place as junta forces were shelling nearby areas.
Daw Thein, who helped with the delivery, said: “She had a difficult labor. The medics said they would flee together after the delivery.”
The baby, however, was weak. But after only 15 minutes of first aid and oxygen support, he uttered his first cry. Fellow villagers were worried for Naw Kaw Kay, because they had experienced fierce fighting in the area around Palu Gyi Village in which churches, schools and the IDP camp were literally peppered with bullet holes.
“Bullets zipped past our heads. As we could not get out from the front door, we had to go out the back door into thick grass. We hid in the grass, so our lower bodies were all wet from the water,” said one displaced woman who was trapped in a church in Palu Gyi Village.
Naw Kaw Kay said she was so overcome with labor pains that she could think of nothing else, and was wishing only for a quick delivery.
Thanks to the volunteer medics of the IDP camp and the courage and strength of Naw Kaw Kay, the night of December 21 will be a memorable story for Displaced to tell his own children in the future.
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