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Renewed fighting between Burmese government forces and ethnic rebel groups in Karen State has forced more than 2,000 villagers from their homes, many of whom now require immediate humanitarian assistance, according to a report released this week by Karen Rivers Watch (KRW).
“Between October 7 and October 18, at least six different incidents of fighting occurred in Hpa-an District’s Hlaing Bwe (Lu Pleh) Township and Hpapun District’s Bu Tho and Dwe Lo Townships. These clashes, fought between combined Burma Army/BGF forces and the DKBA, involved heavy mortar fire … Villagers in the area once again suffered the consequences of violent conflict. Over 2,000 people were forced to flee their homes, and most remain in hiding, fearing for their safety,” the report said.
Titled “Afraid to Go Home: Recent Violent Conflict and Human Rights Abuses in Karen State”, the Karen NGO describes the recent surge in fighting as “part of a calculated military strategy” by the Burmese army and its allies, the Karen Border Guard Force (BGF).
It said the move was directed at seizing territory, “possibly motivated by plans to construct the Hatgyi Dam on the Salween River.”
The Hatgyi Dam is a mega-hydroelectric dam project contracted between the Burmese government and the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand.
The report said last month’s hostilities in Karen State forced more than 2,000 people to cross the border into neighbouring Thailand. KRW urged the Thai authorities not to force the displaced villagers back into conflict zones.