Displaced villagers from Rangoon’s Hlegu Township have been stuck waiting at the border between Mon and Karen states for two days.
The group were travelling with the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA) who had promised to resettle them in Karen territory but were held up at the border by Hpa-an district authorities and refused entry.
80 families including young children and pregnant women have spent two nights at the border. Zaw Thet Htun, a former resident of Thameelay village, said the children are beginning to suffer.
“The DKBA handed us fried noodle boxes and water and fresh drinks, but we haven’t had a proper meal until now. We are stranded here with all our children and they are suffering from the hardship,” he said.
Buddhist monks and members of civil society groups accompanied the former Thameelay villagers on their journey. Well-known activist Naw Ohn Hla was part of the group. She slammed authorities for denying them entry.
“Every citizen has a right to move freely. The officials have no authority to stop them but they did, and they kept them stranded here suffering the whole day which is a violation of their citizen rights,” she said. “There are also a lot of children and pregnant mothers.”
However there were fears that the DKBA were going to force the villagers to join their ranks; however the Karen rebels denied this.
Maj San Aung of the DKBA, who was supervising the transportation, said the convoy was stopped because they hadn’t informed authorities they were taking the villagers over the border.
“They gave many reasons, one being that we are bringing in people from Pegu Division without informing authorities in advance,” he said.
In February, the government deemed three villages in Hlegu Township to be illegally occupied. In the early morning on 4 February, government forces moved in and began demolishing the houses.
Some 500 people fled to neighbouring Pegu Division where they took shelter in a monastery for two months. Then with the threat of eviction from the monastery looming over them and with nowhere else to go, 202 villagers accepted the DKBA’s offer of resettlement.