Karennis hit by war and pandemic in urgent need of aid, says rebel group 

The Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) has called on local and international aid groups to provide urgent help to tens of thousands of people affected by both fighting and surging Covid-19 cases in Kayah (Karenni) State.

Junta troops have been raiding villages to break into homes and loot property, while also hampering local efforts to stop the spread of the virus in the state, the group said in a statement on Friday. 

The KNPP’s armed wing, the Karenni Army, have clashed with the junta’s forces numerous times in Bawlakhe Township and elsewhere since early May. They have fought alongside the newly formed Karenni Nationalities Defence Force (KNDF) on some occasions. 

Some 100,000 people – more than a third of the population of the state – have fled their homes because of the violence. 

The Karenni people are facing hardship in every aspect of life, the KNPP’s statement said, adding that people were in need of food, shelter, and healthcare. 

Many of those displaced are living in forests without adequate shelter from this year’s monsoon rains.  

“We have been helping the refugees by providing some food, shelter and medication,” said Khu Daniel, a secretary of the KNPP. “We can’t provide them with complete protection as of now, so we need donations for shelters, since it’s the rainy season, as well as food and medication.”

Locals in Hpruso and Demoso townships are also fleeing their homes as fighting intensifies in the area. 

A resident of the state capital Loikaw, which is about 20km from the town of Demoso, said that around 1,000 locals from the east of Demoso fled their homes on Friday evening.

She could hear gunshots almost every night and has been preparing to flee as well in the event that the fighting comes closer to her, she added. 

“Everything’s hard now considering both the pandemic and the war are here,” she said. “We are just staying in our houses.”

She added: “We have to be prepared to flee as we don’t know when the war will arrive. We’ve got some beds and food ready so we can flee anytime.” 

Residents of Loikaw recently set up Covid-19 checkpoints in each neighbourhood but were ordered to stop by the junta last week, she added.

Between June 29 and August 12 there were 729 Covid-19 cases reported in Loikaw, six in Hpruso, 39 in Bawlakhe and 251 in Hpasawng, making up to a total of 1,025 cases including 47 deaths, according to a report in The Kantarawaddy Times. 

Dozens of Myanmar military soldiers have been killed in fighting in Kayah in recent months, according to the KNDF, including 80 who died in a battle in early June.

This month 18 junta soldiers have been killed and 20 injured so far, the group said. It has not released full details about casualties among resistance fighters. 

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