Karen villagers pressed to relocate

Some 50 households in Karen state’s Myawaddy township have been told to relocate to make room for the development of petrol storage facilities by a company close to the Burmese junta.

Yepusan Kayinsu village had been told to relocate by 4 December after land there was earmarked for the Shwe Than Lwin construction company, which is owned by business tycoon, Kyaw Lwin.

A resident who spoke to DVB on condition of anonymity said that a local government official had arrived at the village several days ago and demanded answers as to why they hadn’t left, adding that, “He came to expel us without the order from higher authorities”.

Yepusan locals are reportedly contacting the central government in Naypyidaw to lodge a complaint about the relocation. “If they reject our appeal…and we’re relocated, we’ll have to live under the bridge or move to the other side of the river. We are helpless,” said another man.

“We settled down here 15 years ago after we cleared a place which could not be cleared. Now that the place is fertile, the local authority Major Tun Tun Win [now transferred] has sold it to Shwe Than Lwin.”

The company, which is also involved in trade and mining, appears to be exploiting a lack of energy infrastructure in rural Burma, where a black market trade in fuel is flourishing. It is believed to have connections with the faction of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) that agreed to transform into a junta-backed Border Guard Force (BGF), and which controls territory close to Myawaddy.

That split in the DKBA has been the root cause of fighting this month close to Myawaddy, which has sparked multiple exoduses of refugees into Thailand, some as recently as yesterday.

Seventeen newly-turned BGF troops who made the transformation have however defected in recent days and have now joined the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), which is fighting alongside the breakaway DKBA faction.

The leader of the defectors, Lt. Ta Wah Kho, said that the group left because the BGF was “forcing Karen to fight with Karen”. A KNLA officer, Lt-Colonel Phawdo,, said that the 17 would be welcomed into the army.

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