Regime Airstrike Destroys Hospital in Lower Myanmar

By The Irrawaddy 12 January 2022

A Myanmar junta airstrike destroyed a hospital run by the Karen National Union (KNU) in Karen State on early Wednesday morning.

Two regime aircraft bombed the hospital in Papun, a township and district in Karen State in southeast Myanmar that is known as Mutraw in the Karen language. The hospital is operated by the Karen National Liberation Army’s (KNLA) Brigade Five and is in territory controlled by the ethnic armed group. The KNLA is the armed wing of the KNU.

It is the second time this month that the hospital has been hit by junta bombs. On 3 January, an airstrike destroyed part of the hospital in the Wakadae community. Wednesday’s airstrike, launched at 1am in the morning, destroyed the whole building, according to Padoh Mahn Mahn, the KNU’s Papun district spokesperson.

Padoh Mahn Mahn said there were no fatalities as they had moved the patients and medical equipment out of the hospital last week.

He said the junta deliberately targeted the hospital, which provides healthcare to the local community. “It is a vicious assault against a public hospital by the junta,” he added.

Regime air raids are frequent in KNLA-controlled territory. In the area controlled by the KNLA’s Brigade Five alone, regime airstrikes and aerial surveillance missions occur at least two to three times a week, said Padoh Mahn Mahn. The spokesperson added that they are designed as “an attempt to intimidate the people”.

In other parts of Karen State controlled by the KNU, including the new town of Lay Kaw Kyaw, Palu and surrounding villages and Kawkareik Township, there have been consistent air attacks for nearly a month.

Some 80,000 people have been internally displaced by air and artillery strikes targeting the KNLA’s Brigade Five, according to the KNU and relief workers.

All of the residents of Papun district are now internally displaced, said Naw Wah Khu Shee, the spokesperson for the Karen Peace Support Network.

Last March, a school in the district was destroyed and a civilian killed by a regime airstrike. Local children are now forced to study in makeshift camps set up by the internally displaced.

The airstrikes are targeting civilian structures and not affecting the KNLA. “It seems that the military have fewer reinforcements on the ground, but they still want to control the territory here,” said Naw Wah Khu Shee.

Since early 2018, the Myanmar military’s road development scheme – an attempt to take control of territory in KNLA Brigade Five areas – has sparked fighting.

The clashes have continued in the wake of last year’s coup. The regime has also accused the KNLA of assisting the Civil Disobedience Movement and of providing military training to the civilian resistance movement.

However, the KNLA believes the junta is primarily motivated by a desire to take control of KNLA territory.

“It is not because the KNLA is sheltering striking civil servants, but because the Myanmar military wants to take control of the KNLA Brigade Five territory and so the KNLA has to fight to protect its land,” said Naw Wah Khu Shee.

There has been intense fighting in Papun over the last year. The KNLA’s Brigade Five has clashes almost 2,700 times with the Myanmar military, while the KNU/KNLA overall clashed with junta forces on 3,152 occasions in 2021.

Those battles inflicted heavy casualties on regime troops, while civilians have also suffered.

As long as the military attacks and bombs its own civilians, not only in Karen State but also in Kayah and Chin states, “our defensive actions will persist,” said Padoh Mahn Mahn.

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