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Voices from the underground – Part 4

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A Shein & Nway

I was crawling through the grass, when a volunteer with the Moebye Rescue Team (MBRT) looked back at me. He shouted at me but all I could hear was the sound of artillery.

I crawled as fast as I could for nearly 100 metres. I heard explosions. I saw a member of the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force (KNDF) with a bandage around his face, and beside him was another wounded man lying on a stretcher. 

I was helping the MBRT to evacuate wounded KNDF fighters from the frontline during the July 15 battle between it and the Burma Army in Moebye, a village tract in Pekon Township, located in southern Shan State 25 kms from Loikaw, the capital of Karenni State. Two from the KNDF and another two from MBRT lifted the wounded fighter into the back of a car.

I tried to take photos but I couldn’t adjust the exposure in time as we were in a hurry. As soon as the wounded soldier was in the back of the car, the driver shouted at me: “Hurry! Hurry! We’re leaving.” The entire evacuation took around four minutes total.

I jumped inside the car as it was departing and I put my feet beside the wounded fighter. The driver was driving fast to avoid the artillery fire on the Moebye Road. The MBRT volunteer was giving first aid to the wounded soldier and shouted: “Don’t sleep pal! Look at me! We will arrive soon. Don’t go to sleep!” 

Moebye is an important transportation hub that connects Karenni and Shan states to other parts of the country. This is why the military wants it under their control, like Taunggyi and Loikaw. Since May, nearly 300 pro-regime troops have been trying to take back Moebye from the KNDF. 

Their troops have infiltrated three monasteries in the town and resistance forces have tried to force them out. Civilians displaced from their homes due to the fighting were forced to stay at the monasteries. At least 19 civilians were killed between May 27 and June 10 by these troops, according to a local information team. 

The troops force local groups to collect and burn the dead bodies of those they have killed. I met one man who was forced to collect and burn the bodies. He told me that on June 7 a man with a mental disorder was shot by troops. 

On June 11, I went with the Free Burma Rangers (FBR) to this man’s home. He had only one younger brother taking care of him despite his condition. FBR took the man to receive medical attention. He told us he was shot while sitting outside of a monastery by troops inside. 

A local woman told me she had managed to escape from the monastery, where hundreds of locals were held hostage by troops. She added that they are used as human shields, in case resistance forces try to liberate the monasteries from the troops.

On July 15, two more civilians were injured by artillery. A bomb that didn’t explode was found in a farm outside of town. The KNDF took it away so it couldn’t harm anyone. I was able to take a photo of the unexploded bomb. The local information team said that it’s still unable to know the exact amount of buildings destroyed during fighting over the last month. 

The only fact is that every time the fighting stops temporarily, locals can’t wait to return to their homes and to the market. But when the fighting resumes people flee their homes again. I’m not sure what will happen next. Will Mobye return to a thriving transportation hub and market town, or will it become deserted like neighbouring Demoso? Or will it fall under military control like Loikaw?

A Shein and Nway are members of Karenni Voice, a community media and radio project operating in the liberated areas of Karenni State.


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