23 December 2004

Update on the Naunglybin District offensive and three new Burma Army camps.

Schoolhouse destroyed by Burma Army

First day of school for children at IDP hide site, 23 December 2004

IDP family, their possessions and their home (the bamboo platform)

IDPs receiving medical care

The Burma Army continues its operations against civilians in Naunglybin District, Western Karen State, Burma. They are building three new camps that when completed will further shrink the territory of the Karen National Union (KNU) in Western Karen State and force IDPs to flee further into the jungle. The Burma Army has completed a dry season only road from Shweygyn to the East to Kushaw Mountain on the Papun-Naunglybin District border. This road is now being improved with the use of bulldozers. When asked why they thought the Burma Army was making this offensive now, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and Karen soldiers answered that the area East of Shweygyn is rich in gold and timber. The SPDC desires to control this area and drive all the IDPs out.

New Burma Army camps:

Three new camps are being built by the Burma Army in the area they recently attacked. These camps are in a line north to south forming a new eastern front which penetrates deeper into Karen territory. They are built on what were Karen village areas. The 4,781 villagers displaced are still in hiding in the mountains and jungle near these areas and cannot go back to their homes. The Burma Army has placed landmines around the areas they attacked and burned, and patrol the surroundings.

Camp 1) On 12 December a new camp was started at Su Mu Klo, on the south bank of the Bolo Chaung (river), approximately 20 kilometers North-East of Shweygyn city. The Burma Army drove out the villagers from this area burning their homes, rice barns and destroying their fields. These people are in hiding in the mountains and have very little to eat and only the clothes they escaped with to wear. Burma Army Battalion LIB 589 continues to work on this new camp and has mined all approaches extensively. They have also mined all the old villages making it very dangerous for anyone to try and return.

Camp 2) On 19 December a new camp was started at Wa Ko Law Thae, 15 kilometers east of Shweygyn. Burma Army Battalion LIB 20 is building this new camp.

Camp 3) On 21 December a new camp was started at Mae Tae Ta, on the Taungale River. This is 15 kilometers East-South-East of Shweygyn. LIB 350 and LIB 598 are located here.

The seven Burma Army Battalions now engaged in the building of new camps and attacks on IDP sites are: LIB 350, LIB 589, LIB 20, LIB 349, LIB 598, LIB 264 (not directly engaged, in support only, screening to the west) and IB 57. All of these battalions are operating under the control of the Southern Command, headquartered in Toungoo, Burma.