Myanmar military strikes displace more than 20,000 in northern Karen state

 NORTHERN KAREN STATE, Myanmar (Anawim Today)- More than 20,000 people have been reportedly displaced as of April 1 following airstrikes by the Myanmar’s army in the northern Karen state.


A Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) press release issued to Anawim Today on Tursday, April 1 quoted the Free Burma Rangers as saying that the airstrikes which began on March 27 have targeted civilians, schools and medical clinics.


On 1 April, at least 14 people were killed and 40 more were injured, including women and children, in airstrikes children in Dwe Lo Township, Papun District, said CSW.


“Many others have been killed and wounded during the campaign, although the exact number is unknown, and the Free Burma Rangers (FBR) have also reported the destruction of homes and village food stores”, said the release.


The release said while the military has reportedly now declared a ceasefire, the FBR reports that many displaced civilians believe this is only a delaying tactic, and therefore are remaining in hiding.


The airstrikes, according to CSW, are the latest development after years of conflict between the Myanmar military and the ethnic Karen people, and appear to realise concerns raised that the military would increase their campaigns of violence against Myanmar’s ethnic nationalities following their return to power in the coup of 1 February.


CSW said in September 2018 an UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission declared that the military was responsible for crimes against humanity and war crimes against the country’s ethnic nationalities in Kachin and Shan states, as well as for the crime of genocide against the Rohingya people.


Benedict Rogers, Christian Solidary Worldwide (CSW)’s Senior Analyst for East Asia and author of two books on Myanmar/Burma said: “This intensified offensive against the Karen people by the military in Myanmar/Burma is deeply concerning.”


Rogers added: “The army has not only totally broken a ceasefire agreed almost a decade ago, but it is using such force that it is creating a humanitarian crisis on its borders at the same time as using lethal force to crackdown on protests in the cities and towns.”


He went on to say that it is perpetrating grave human rights violations that may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, and the international community must act urgently to prevent this escalating further.


“We need more robust, co-ordinated, targeted sanctions against the military and its enterprises, and a global arms embargo. Failure to act urgently and with every tool available will result in a humanitarian disaster in the country,” said Rogers.


Editor’s note:

Caption: Devastation from airstrikes in Karen State. Credit: Free Burma Rangers


CSW is a human rights organisation specialising in freedom of religion or belief.  It works on over 20 countries across Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.