Karen boy killed by Burmese shell

Feb 26, 2010 (DVB)-A village for internally displaced persons in eastern Burma has been shelled by Burmese troops, causing the death of a 15-year-old boy.

The attack in Karen state’s Papun district occurred on the morning of 19 February and left two other children, including an eight-year-old girl, injured. Robert Htoo was killed on the spot.

"They [Burmese army] launched an artillery shell and it landed near the school of an internally displaced persons [IDP] village while children were studying. One pupil died and two were wounded," said Kler Say, from the Papun wing of the Karen National Union (KNU) party.

The village, Thay Thu Khee, is home to around 400 people who have fled conflict in other parts of the volatile Karen state, where the Burmese army has been waging a 60-year civil war against the Karen National Liberation Army.

When the 19 February attack occurred, there were 48 pupils and four teachers in the school, said Edward, from the Karen Teacher Working Group.

Until 1996, Papun had remained on the periphery of fighting in Karen state. Now, however, the Burmese army "does not distinguish between civilians and the enemy anymore in its effort to dominate the area," said Kler Say, adding that people are ‘cleared’ from Papun as part of the government’s military tactics.

Due to the military operations, around 500 pupils from 11 villages home to IDPs in Kyaukkyi township, in northern Karen state, are still unable to attend school, and are forced to hide in the jungle.

The Committee for Internally Displaced Karen People said that more IDPs in Kheh Deh and Kwee La villages have been forced into hiding following extensive military operations.

More than 2000 people have been displaced and three IDP villages were destroyed as a result of military operations, while two villagers were shot dead in Kyaukkyi township, according to the Free Burma Rangers medical aid group.

More than half a million people are believed to be internally displaced in eastern Burma alone as a result of the drawn-out conflict that has littered the Karen countryside with landmines and forced thousands across the border into Thailand.

The Thai government came under fire earlier this month as it attempted to send around 2000 Karen refugees who fled fighting last June back into Burma, despite aid groups warning of dire conditions there. The repatriation has however been temporarily suspended.

Reporting by Naw Noreen

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