FROM THE DVB NEWSROOM
The military regime in Naypyidaw has lost significant control across southeast Burma since the 2021 coup, states the Karen Peace Support Network (KPSN), a grouping of 30 Karen civil society organizations in Burma and Thailand.
In its latest report titled “A Shifting Power Balance” released on Sept. 26, the KPSN claims that the Burma Army has lost 62 military camps to the armed wings of the Karen National Union (KNU) and other resistance groups as of July 26.
Eight of the 62 were recaptured by regime forces. But the Burma Army has lost control of more camps in each successive year since its coup; 21 were lost in 2021 and 43 were abandoned by mid-2023. The KPSN report added that the number of regime civil servants in Karen territory has decreased while the KNU has increased its administrative apparatus across the state.
The KPSN stated that the KNU has also managed to expand its education system since 2021. In 2019-2020, 382 state schools in KNU territory were administered directly by the KNU while only 370 were under Naypyidaw’s Ministry of Education. By 2022-2023, the KNU administered all 909 state schools in its territory. Many teachers involved in the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) – a group of civil servants that refuse to work under the military regime – have since started working at schools under the KNU.
The military regime has responded to increasing KNU control with airstrikes and artillery attacks. At least 1,178 artillery attacks were committed by regime forces in Karen territory between February 2021 and July 2023. Eighty-eight people were killed and 342 were injured by artillery shelling. At least 417 airstrikes have occurred, killing 41 people and injuring 145. Nineteen schools, 15 churches, 10 monasteries, and six clinics were destroyed or damaged by these attacks.
Over 637,414 people have fled their homes due to fighting and are Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) as of July 2023, states KPSN. “Currently humanitarian aid inside the country is not being distributed [effectively] because the military is intimidating and threatening all humanitarian [organizations] trying to distribute aid to IDPs. The international community should channel all humanitarian aid through cross-border networks,” said KPSN Deputy Director Saw Lay Ka Paw.
The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) recorded 322,600 IDPs across southeast Burma in its July 15 report. The KPSN claimed that figures from U.N. agencies in Yangon are unreliable as they are operating under restrictions imposed by Naypyidaw. Karen State and the southeast have been a region of intense fighting between the Burma Army and resistance groups since the 2021 coup. The KPSN report concluded that at least $43 million USD is needed in the next year to support IDPs.