More than 500 people are reportedly displaced in eastern Karen state’s Hpapun township after their village came under artillery fire from the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) government’s army troops who also burnt down most of the houses in the village.
Major Saw Kler Doh, spokesperson of the anti-government Karen National Union’s (KNU) armed-wing Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) brigade-5 said Dutado village in Hpapun township was attacked and burnt down by troops under SPDC Military Operations Command 10’s Tactical Operations Command 2 on July 23.
He said the SPDC troops began their attack on the Dutado in the morning of July 23 by firing artillery rounds into the village for more nearly four hours.
“[The Burmese army troops] starting from around 10am in the morning began pounding Dutado with artillery shells for nearly four hours, forcing the villagers to flee into the jungle,” said Saw Kler Doh.
“The villagers fled their homes and couldn’t take anything with them apart from the cloths they were wearing. They were about 540 people in the village.”
“[The troops] entered the village around 3pm in the afternoon and burnt down everything.”
Saw Kler Doh said the village’s school, a church and about 70 houses were destroyed in the attack and the villagers were displaced in the jungle. The Burmese army troops left the village on July 24 but reported to have laid mines there to prevent the villagers from coming back.
“The army left the village in July 24’s afternoon. Some mines exploded in the village after they left and everyone assumed it was them who planted those mines. Now the villagers are afraid to go back to their homes,” he said.
He added there was no casualties amongst the villagers but one KNLA medic was killed when trying to assist villagers. Villagers were however facing difficulties with food, shelter and health assistance as they were displaced in the jungle. About 100 children in the village will also be left with no education as their school was burnt down.
It is believed that the attack was an attempt to strike at the KNLA whose lack of formal bases make it very difficult to strike at their infrastructure, villages are thus seen as the support structure for the group.
The internally displaced villagers are being provided with food aid by the Committee for Internally Displaced Karen People which operates in the region but in need of more assistance. Meanwhile, other civil society groups in the region are preparing to donate food, clothing, blankets, kitchen utensils and materials for shelter.
This attack came just as tensions were said to be on the rise between the SPDC and the KNU’s rival Karen army the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) over the Border Guard Force proposal.
Villagers who recently fled to Thai-Burmese border in fear of the clashes were reported to be going back to their homes yesterday.
On July 25, about 500 people in Myawaddy township’s Wahmehta, Leh Wow, Sonsemyaing and Thay Baw Bo villages fled their homes to Thai-Burma border when tensions grew between the DKBA brigade 907 led by Major Na Khan Mwe, who stayed defiant against Rangoon government’s Border Guard Force (BGF) proposal, and the SPDC army.
The villagers were taking shelter in Phop Phra township in Thailand’s Tak province on the advice of their village leaders. On the next day [Monday, July 26], about 400 of those who fled, apart from some women and children, began heading back into Burma after being informed by the village leaders that it was safe to go back home.
According to a source close to the DKBA, the situation in Myawaddy was calm after some officials from the SPDC army and the DKBA’s special battalion 999 met with major Na Khan Mwe on Sunday evening when he reportedly accepted the BGF plan but DVB could not independently confirm this information.