Hundreds flee latest clashes between Tatmadaw and KNU  

Recent fighting between the military and the Karen National Union (KNU) has forced up to 1,000 villagers in Bago region’s Kyaukkyi township to flee their homes, according to local activists.

The Karen Youth Network (KYN) has reported that clashes that began in Kayin state late last year have spread to Bago region amid tensions over a road being built through KNU territory.

The KYN’s Saw Albert Cho told Myanmar Now that fighting in the area started earlier this month, and has since forced hundreds of villagers to take shelter in the jungle.

“Local residents are taking refuge,” he said, estimating that the total number of those affected could be as high as 1,000.

He said that on Tuesday, a man who returned to his village to feed his livestock was injured after being fired on by Tatmadaw troops. 

“He came back and fed his animal. He was wounded when the Tatmadaw opened fire,” he said, adding that fear had forced most of the villagers to flee emptyhanded.

“The weather is very cold now. Raincoats and other things are required. They also need to eat and drink,” he said.

According to the KNU’s general secretary, Padoh Ta Doh Moo, the latest clash was triggered by a Tatmadaw incursion into the vicinity of Pakaw Khi, a village where KNU troops are camped.

He said the government troops fired two artillery shells at the village during the exchange. 

“The villagers were hit and then they fled,” he said, adding that the Tatmadaw had suffered “many casualties” in the fighting.

The recent clashes come after five years of relative peace in the region. In 2015, the KNU signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), touted by the government as a cornerstone of its efforts to end decades of civil war in the country.

However, the construction of a road through ethnic Karen territory has brought more Tatmadaw troops into the area, eroding trust and resulting in a return to open conflict.

In Kayin state’s Hpapun (Mutraw) district, where fighting between the Tatmadaw and the KNU’s Brigade 5 broke out in early December, more than 3,000 civilians have been displaced

Padoh Ta Doh Moo said the KNU wants to meet with Tatmadaw officials to discuss ways to ease the tensions, but has yet to receive a reply to a letter he sent to Lt-Gen Yar Pyae, the chairman of the Tatmadaw Peace Talks Committee, in December.

Myanmar Now reached out to Tatmadaw spokesperson Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun for comment, but did not receive a response.

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