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The bodies of two teenage women in Karen state’s battle-torn Wawlay region have been found, one of whom was beheaded.
They become the latest victims of grisly attacks in the volatile eastern state that last month saw six troops from the KNU/KNLA Peace Council hacked to death with machetes.
The two women, 16-year-old Naw Ramu Htoo, an ethnic Karen, and another teenager, were found on 22 December close to Wawlay, which has seen heavy fighting between Burmese troops and the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) since early November.
The identity of the beheaded girl has not been confirmed, although it is suspected that she is from the ethnic Mon group, and is a resident of nearby Eukayhta village.
“They had been dead for about three or four days but their bodies were only found yesterday [Wednesday],” a Wawlay local said. “Naw Ramu Htoo lived in Wawlay Ward 2. We only found the body of the other girl but without the head.”
According to locals, both women had been raped.
A member of a local DKBA battalion said that Burmese troops had been behind the incident, but this could not be individually confirmed.
Wawlay had been a stronghold of the DKBA in its fight against the Burmese army until it was taken by Burmese troops in late November. Heavy fighting has since plagued the area, which lies south of the Burmese border town of Myawaddy.
“We are very worried for the safety of women after hearing such news,” said Nan Dah Eh, general secretary of the Karen Women’s Organisation. “There is no doubt that such raping and murdering of women will continue if the Burmese junta continues its military offensives in the ethnic regions.”
The recent conflict began after renegade DKBA commander Na Kham Mwe severed an alliance with the Burmese junta and on 8 November led his troops into Myawaddy. Fighting since has pushed thousands of Karen refugees back and fourth across the border with Thailand.