Friday, May 8, 2009

IDPs mount in more conflicts in eastern Burma

by Mungpi
Friday, 08 May 2009 17:19

New Delhi – Unabated fighting between the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and the Burmese Army has led to thousands more to flee their homes and live in the jungles in the first quarter of 2009.

The Committee for Internally Displaced Karen People (CIDKP), a group assisting internally displaced people in Karen state, told Mizzima on Friday that since January to April 2009, thousands of Karen villagers were forced to flee into the jungles as a result of armed conflicts.

“We have been able to reach some IDPs in parts of Karen state but there are still many people, whom we cannot reach,” Thein Win, a member of the CIDKP, told Mizzima.

He said the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in many areas remain cut-off by armed groups including the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), a splinter group of the Karen National Union (KNU), who have laid landmines on the routes to the Thai-Burma border.

“Usually the IDPs are supplied with food and medical assistance by churches and we are involved in bringing the supplies, but there are some groups, whom we are unable to reach,” he said.

However, he said, the situation in the first quarter of 2009 is much better than previous years, as skirmishes between the KNU’s armed wing KNLA and the joint troops of Burmese Army and their puppet armed groups including the DKBA is less.

According to the KNU, during the first quarter of 2009, its armed wing KNLA has fought a total of 385 battles including clandestine attacks launched by the Burmese Army and the DKBA.

“These battles include sniper attacks and hit and run attacks launched by the enemy,” David Takarpaw, Vice Chairman of the KNU told Mizzima, referring to the Burmese junta’s army and its allies as ‘enemies’.

But he said, the attacks during the first quarter of 2009 are much less than in the previous year.

“Since 2006 February, the junta had launched a full fledged military campaign against the KNU with the aim to eliminate us. The campaign was for three years and ended in January 2009,” Takarpaw said.

According to the KNU’s release, a total of 225 soldiers including high ranking officers from the enemy camps were killed and at least 434 soldiers were injured while the KNU suffered seven deaths and five injuries.

“Last year we were engaged in more than 1,000 battles including clandestine attacks and we also lost some ground in our areas of control,” Takarpaw said.

These battles, the CIDKP said, has pushed more villagers into the jungles as they are trapped between the two camps. And often these IDPs are not reachable as they keep moving in order to avoid attacks.

“Sometimes the IDP camps are also attacked by the DKBA or the Burmese Army. And in many cases they are blocked from crossing the border by placing landmines on the roads,” Thein Win said.

The KNU, which is the longest surviving insurgent group in Burma fighting for 60 years for self-determination, in recent months, has come under renewed pressure, when their troops were ordered to move out of Thai soil, where they have taken refuge.

Takarpaw earlier told Mizzima that Thailand in February ordered them to move away from their soil.