More Than 20,000 People Displaced as Myanmar’s Military Launches Attacks Against Karen Ethnic Group

A Karen family taking shelter in the forest in Dooplya district in Myanmar’s Karen state.

As news of the brutal crackdown by Myanmar’s security forces against the opponents of the February 1 military coup continues to draw media attention, the military is cranking up its offensive against the insurgent groups, displacing thousands of innocent civilians.

20,000 Karen displaced

More than 20,000 people in Myanmar’s Karen state have been forced to flee their homes as the military has continued its air and ground attacks since late March, according to Free Burma Rangers, a humanitarian group that provides help to internally displaced people in the southeast nation, also called Burma. It said, “The newly displaced people are unable to tend their crops or take care of their animals and are surviving on emergency rations they have hidden. But not only do they need food now, this will become a greater crisis if they cannot plant their fields,” and take care of their animals.

After seizing power in a February 1 coup, the military junta has failed to crush the nation-wide daily protests and a civil disobedience movement, including a strike, calling for the release of the nation’s elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the restoration of democracy.

The army’s latest air and ground offensive against the Karen people began on March 27 after the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) attacked a military camp, killing 10 soldiers. They were the first airstrikes in 20 years in Karen state, which has been relatively peaceful since a nationwide ceasefire agreement in October 2015.

Targeting people

In a report on Tuesday, Free Burma Rangers said that 14 Karen people have been killed and more than 40 wounded in airstrikes.  “The biggest result of these airstrikes has been over 20,000 people hiding in the jungle, afraid to stay in their homes and be the next target, unable to go out to their fields,” it said. Schools, clinics, homes and mining operations have been hit by the military’s airstrikes. The military has also been reinforcing a ground offensive into Karen territory that forced villagers to flee their homes.

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SOURCE: Vatican News, Robin Gomes