Tatmadaw Allegedly Torch Home in Karen State

By Network Media Group
Thursday, January 28, 2021

A Karen civilian accused the Burma Army of burning down a villager’s home in northern Karen State where fighting with the Karen National Union (KNU) Brigade 5 has been ongoing since late last year.

The man who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal told NMG that Tatmadaw soldiers from LIB-339 torched the home in Mae Waing village last Sunday, January 24.

According to the Karen Information Center (KIC), Padon Mahn Mahn, KNU Brigade 5 spokesperson, confirmed the burning of the house. Tatmadaw’s Information Team officially denied it during a press conference held on Tuesday, January 26.

Although no clashes have been reported in the village in Mutraw District (aka Hpupan Township), both sides are standing off. Villagers anticipating violence have already fled the area.

Fighting in northern Karen restarted last December after the Tatmadaw resumed construction of a series of controversial roads connecting several of its hilltop bases located between KNU brigades 5 and 3. Minor clashes have also broken out in nearby Mon State and Bago Region, both bordering Karen State.

About four-thousand Karen villagers hiding in the jungle, facing frigid temperatures at night, require emergency support. Donors have provided some food, blankets and warm clothing for the displaced civilians but more assistance is still required.

The anonymous source told NMG that Tatmadaw troops have expanded their presence in the area to build the roads. Fighting started after they crossed into KNU’s controlled area. In January, at least 30 shells fired by the Burma Army have struck villages located in Mae Waing and Luthaw townships, the man said. No-one was killed this month but a child on a rotational farm suffered a head injury from shrapnel in Mutraw District.

However in the last few years since the road project started there have been a number of Karen civilians killed by Tatmadaw troops.

Naw Mu Naw, 40, mother of three was killed and robbed by two Burma Army soldiers in Po Lo Hta village, Dweh Lo Township. Saw Maw Aye Than, a KNU Forest Ranger was shot and killed by Tatmadaw soldiers on March 5. Saw O Moo, was gunned down by a Burma Army column near Wah Klo Hat, Mutraw District, on April 5, 2018.

Over 10,000 Karen gathered in three locations in Luthaw Township on December 30 to protest the Burma Army’s presence in northern Karen State and call for the construction of the roads to end. A week later over a thousand villagers staged a similar protest at two locations in Mae Wai village tract. On January 24, around 800 villagers marched from P’ya Raw village to Lay Kay village demanding that the armed groups respect the ceasefire, the Burma Army to withdraw from the area and for the NLD government to find a solution to the conflict through political dialogue.

Since Burma Army deployed troops to the area last December, villagers are living in constant fear, Padoh Mahn Mahn told NMG. “They’ve robbed and killed civilians before, while indiscriminately firing heavy weapons during clashes. They have also shot directly at villages.” Unless the Burma Army starts respecting the terms of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), he said that the fighting will continue.

The KNU signed a bilateral ceasefire in 2012 and the NCA in 2015.