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Refugees from Burma sheltering in Thailand return to Myawaddy; Military begins second round for conscription

FROM THE DVB NEWSROOM

Refugees from Burma sheltering in Thailand return to Myawaddy

Only 1,000 out of the total 3,000 refugees who arrived in Mae Sot, Thailand in recent days returned to Myawaddy in Karen State on Monday, the Bangkok Post reported. Thai Army Chief Prasan Saengsirirak said that the refugees returned as fighting in Myawaddy subsided. 

“[Thailand] said it would accept 100,000 people just to stay temporarily and then push them back. They didn’t say anything about how they would manage this refugee situation,” said Pim Koetsawang, the former director of Thai non-governmental organization Friends without Borders.

The Karen National Union (KNU) seized control of Myawaddy after the last military outpost in the area was abandoned by 200 regime troops, who fled to the Thai-Burma border, and allied resistance forces have held it since April 11. The Karen resistance forces have repelled several regime counterattacks.

Free Burma Rangers assist conscription evaders 

The founder and director of Free Burma Rangers, David Eubank, told DVB that it has received calls for information and assistance from hundreds of men and women of military conscription age since the conscription law was announced on Feb. 10.

“We’re just trying to help people get to areas where they couldn’t get conscripted. That’s mostly in the eastern parts of Karen State, at least in the areas we’re in, and trying to provide some way for them to survive,” said Eubank.

Free Burma Rangers provide emergency health care and humanitarian assistance to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) sheltering in areas under the control of resistance forces. The U.N. states that there are over 2.8 million IDPs nationwide. Eubank added that FBR will host training for new candidates in the coming months.

Military begins second round for conscription

Burma Affairs and Conflict Study (BACS) told DVB that the first batch of military conscripts has reached 5,000 and that the intake for a second batch is underway. It added that the conscripts were sent to 15 military training facilities set up across the country. 

“I left with 10 others from my village. We don’t have a specific plan of what to do next,” said Saw Pol, an ethnic Karen from Ayeyarwady Region who evaded conscription and is now sheltering in Kyain Seikgyi Township of Karen State. 

The military primarily targets men between the ages of 24-30 for conscription, according to BACS. The number of men who have already fled the country or to resistance strongholds to evade military service is unknown. People’s Embrace, which assists military defectors, stated that over 26,000 have contacted them for assistance.

News by Region

Homes destroyed by airstrikes in Khampat of Tamu Township in Sagaing Region on Monday. (Credit: CJ)

SAGAING—Three civilians were killed and three others injured by airstrikes carried out on Khampat, Tamu Township, on Monday. Seven homes were destroyed. “One of the injured civilians is in critical condition,” said a People’s Defense Force (PDF) spokesperson. The PDF seized control of Khampat on Nov. 7 but the Burma Army has been trying to retake the town. The military has blockaded the Kalay-Tamu-Khampat Road. Thousands of residents have been displaced in Tamu Township since  November. 

Myint Htway, the chair of Sagaing Federal Unit Hluttaw, claimed that resistance forces control 80 percent of Sagaing Region. “The number of military offensives in our controlled areas declined by half compared to last year as the military is conducting operations in Arakan, Karen and Kachin states,” he added. Local groups are providing services in areas under its control. The Burma Army retook Kawlin from PDF control on Feb. 11.

ARAKAN—At least five civilians were killed and others were injured in Kankaw Kyun village, Sittwe Township, on Saturday. “They [military] opened fire in the village after their troops stepped on landmines,” said a resident who witnessed the attack. More than 200 villagers have been displaced and at least five troops were killed. At least 100 residents were arrested and are being held at a military base in Sittwe. More than 170 civilians have been killed and nearly 200 injured since the Arakan Army (AA) launched its latest offensive against the Burma Army on Nov. 13.

YANGON—Regime administrators in North Okkalapa, Hlaingthaya and South Dagon townships have gone door-to-door to collect the names of eligible new conscripts since April 18. “They have a list of family members who are staying at their households registered with the census. The first batch of conscripts were taken by military trucks at night,” said a North Okkalapa resident. Military training for new conscripts began on March 29.

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