Thousands Flee, Casualties Reported in Karen State Conflict

By Saw Yan Naing 15 September 2016

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — Thousands of civilians have fled their homes and there have been reports of casualties as fighting persists in the Myaing Gyi Ngu and Mae Tha Waw areas of Karen State.

Volunteer aid workers in Myaing Gyi Ngu said that 3,800 villagers who have fled the fighting are staying at a hall in the village and in locals’ houses, while others have fled across the border to Thailand. The numbers are increasing, they said.

“The villagers said the fighting is still happening,” said, Hay Plah, a volunteer relief worker who just returned from Myaing Gyi Ngu. “They are not sure about the number of casualties, but said many Border Guard Force (BGF) soldiers have been injured or killed.”

One soldier from the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA), who is currently fighting the BGF and Burma Army, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that two of its soldiers had been wounded and that many soldiers from the BGF and Burma Army have been killed or wounded.

“I witnessed a pile of BGF soldier corpses. I guess there might have been around 100 of them,” said the soldier who is fighting with Maj Saw San Aung’s group. He added that DKBA troops also seized several weapons in clashes in the villages of Yeika Kone, Wa Klu camp, and Kalu Htaw in Myaing Gyi Ngu and Mae Tha Waw areas.

Sources close to NGOs in Mae Sot on the Thai-Burma border also reported that Myawaddy hospital has received many injured BGF and Burma Army soldiers from conflict areas. They said that casualties stand at around 40 and that many had been injured by land mines. The Irrawaddy was not able to confirm the number of casualties independently.

Saw Thaw Thee Bwe, joint secretary of the largest ethnic Karen armed group the Karen National Union (KNU), told The Irrawaddy, “We know that so far more than 3,000 villagers from over 20 villages have fled and sought refuge in Myaing Gyi Ngu and Ka Ma Maung villages. Some also fled across the border to Thailand.”

Humanitarian assistance by several organizations including the DKBA, as well as private companies and individuals, was also delivered to affected villagers in Myaing Gyi Ngu. About 200 villagers have fled into Thailand’s Tha Song Yan District.

On Tuesday, the KNU voiced concern over the ongoing fighting in Mae Tha Waw region in Karen State and called on all concerned parties, especially the Burma Army, to cease military activity, saying it could affect the peace process.