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Karen hospital hit by artillery fire

Fighting close to Karen state’s Kawkareik erupted yesterday with four artillery shells damaging buildings in the town, including a hospital.

A Kawkareik resident said that joint forces of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) and Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) yesterday morning attacked a Burmese battalion near to the town, triggering heavy exchange of fire.

He said that three wards – Wingyi, Tada Oo and Aukywar – were hit by what appears to have been stray shells. “Because the fighting took place in a number of different locations, we don’t know who the shells belong to,” he added.

The monks’ wing of Kawkareik Hospital in Wingyi ward was damaged but casualties remain unknown.

Colonel Paw Do, of KNLA Battalion 101, said a Burmese battalion commander was killed in one of four fire fights that took place yesterday morning, although they were still waiting for a detailed casualty report.

It follows several flare-ups between Karen forces and the Burmese army close to the border with Thailand. The end of April saw a week of fighting in Kyiekdon, just south of Kawkareik, in which several civilians were killed, and on 8 May seven Burmese troops died in clashes with the KNLA in Wawlay.

The Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG) warned yesterday that close to 9000 people in the northern Karen district of Papun had either exhausted, or were close to exhausting their food stocks as a result of Burmese army operations in the region.

“The 118 villages are located in nine village tracts, where attacks on civilians by Burma’s state army, the Tatmadaw, have triggered wide scale and repeated displacement since 1997,” said a report.

“As tens of thousands of civilians in northern Karen state have been displaced, over-population in hiding areas where civilians can more effectively avoid attacks has created shortages of arable land, depleted soil fertility and reduced potential crop yields.”

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