20,000 in Hiding as Burma Army Kills Civilians in Airstrikes

Saw Pah Dah Chit, 16 yrs, wounded by an airstrike in Mae Kaw Lo Village.

Free Burma Rangers report from Karen State, Burma (ANS)

The Burma military continued its airstrikes in spite of an announced ceasefire, and ground attacks have stepped up in northern Karen State, displacing now over 20,000 people in the three northern districts of Karen State alone. The Burma Army declared a ceasefire on 1 April 2021, yet conducted multiple airstrikes in Dwelo Township, Papun District, northern Karen State in the morning and afternoon of that same day, 1 April 2021. At the same time, it launched ground attacks in Luthaw Township, with heavy mortars driving villagers into the jungle. On 2 April 2021, the Burma Army launched another attack with four battalions of Division 88 moving from Kamamaung, north of Hpa-an in central Karen State, up towards the city of Papun in northern Karen State. Also on 2 April, Burma Army troops fired into Ler Day Village, Butho, Papun District, killing a woman named Naw Mu Doh, aged 35, and wounding her husband, Saw Mya Aung in his left shoulder. The village fled into the jungle. Further south, there have been attacks also in the Dooplaya District of south-central Karen State and up in Taungoo District, in the northernmost part of Karen State. Elements of Division 77 and 88 were deployed along the Sittang River valley, blocking access from the plains up to the mountains of northern Karen State, with more troops pushing towards the area north of Thaton. Now Division 88 has turned east into Karen State to support attacks on Papun District.

In Papun District, there are 26 Burma Army battalions operating currently. These include LIBs 341, 434, 340, and 19 from Strategic Operation Command (SOC), and Light Infantry Battalions (LIB) 401, 402, 403, 405, 407, 410 from Military Operation Command (MOC) 8. They are moving between Mae Way camp, Thoo Mweh Ta camp, the Papun road, the Koo Thu Ta area, and the Kay Kaw area. Also near Mae Way camp is South Eastern Command (SEC) LIB 339. Additionally, in Papun are three Border Guard Force (BGF) battalions 1014, 1013, and 1011. In Luthaw Township, Kay Pu area, are MOC 4 and LIBs 705 and 707, with movement between Kaw Daw Koh and Hsa Law Kee. Burma Army has been shelling in the Kay Pu area since the beginning of 2021, preventing the villagers from going to their fields. This shelling continues up until now. In addition to those already listed, responsible units are from the Southern Command, LIBs 20, 264, and 440.

In Ler Mu Plaw area of Luthaw Township, LIB 20 has a base camp in Taw Mu Plaw Mae from which they shell down on villages below such as Naw Kaw Baw where on 1 April they dropped 8 mortar rounds into the village and nearby fields. Not only do the people have to flee and hide, but they also cannot tend their fields which means without help they will starve. LIB 440 camps in Kyu Lu and Maw Pu camps and LIB 264 is in Der Kyu. From these camps, they shell the nearby villages every day. MOC 4 with LIBs 705, 709, and 704 has a base camp in the Kay Pu area from which they launch mortars.

In Nyaunglebin District, Ler Doh to Kyaw Ta, are LIBs 439, 598, 589, and 75 as well as IBs 20, 57, 53, and 48.

In Toungoo District, the northernmost of the seven Karen National Union districts, Division 77 is sealing off the plains from the mountains and pushing deeper into Karen State.

The situation in Karen State is dire, with the 20,000 newly displaced, unable to tend their crops or take care of their animals and surviving on emergency rations they have hidden. But not only do they need food now, but this will also become a greater crisis if they cannot plant their fields. The Burma Army is improving their road network into Karen State to further project their power, with dismounted infantry moving with bulldozers to build and repair roads. They are resupplying their camps in the area including new camps they have built. The infantry battalions also attack from roads and camps into villages and chase the villagers deeper into the jungle. They fire machine guns and 60mm, 81mm, and 120mm heavy mortars into the jungle to kill anyone who dares to stay. The Burma military is also conducting airstrikes into Karen State for the first time in over 20 years and for the first time that we know of, these have been airstrikes conducted at night, which means the Burma military has increased its capability, capacity, and lethality. The jets usually come in two at a time. They drop bombs, some of which, according to the descriptions of the villagers who saw them, are cluster bombs, and they are doing gun runs with machine guns and cannons.

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SOURCE: Assist News Service, Jeff Thompson