Heavy fire, landmines rock eastern Burma

Landmine explosions on three consecutive days in Pegu division claimed one life and injured more as ongoing fighting in Burma’s east continues to displace thousands.

Locals in Pegu’s Shwekyin township, where Burmese troops are fighting the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), said that regular explosions rocked the surrounding area every day between 25 and 28 February, leaving one man dead and two with severe injuries to their legs.

Shwekyin residents also say that no warning was given to civilians about the location of the ordinance. While no one has claimed responsibility for the landmines, the Burmese army was recently named the world’s only remaining active user of the maligned weapon.

Heavy fighting meanwhile continues to rage in Karen state, which is sandwiched between Pegu division and Burma’s border with Thailand. Burmese troops have been battling a coalition of nearly four months, with little sign that fighting is easing.

Burmese troops last week pounded nine villages in the Hpa-pun district with heavy artillery fire, forcing around one thousand people to flee into the surrounding jungle.

“Some of their houses have been burnt down,” said Major Kaleh Doh of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), which is fighting alongside the DKBA. “The villagers were afraid to go back to their homes because of worries that Burmese troops might lay mines around there.”

The fighting has forced thousands of Karen refugees into neighbouring Thailand, but conditions there are said to be difficult. Around 10,000 currently sheltering in tents along the banks of the Moei river, which separates the two countries, are suffering food shortages, with many forced to live on plain rice and, unable to work in Thailand, struggling to make money.

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