By Kantarawaddy Times
The military torched the houses of villagers in Loikaw Township, where many stored their rice after returning to harvest their paddy fields, before the soldiers forced them to flee again.
”We could not take our rice with us when we left—now it’s all gone,” said a local man who recently returned home to harvest his rice but had to flee when fighting broke out in the area between the Burma Army (BA) and Karenni resistance groups. The man moved into a camp in May, when the fighting began.
”They are trying to starve the people” and this is a ”crime against humanity” said Banyar, director of the Karenni Human Rights Group (KHRG). He says BA soldiers targeted civilians’ food supplies and other property such as their tractors, although there were no clashes in the Loilan Lay area at the time of the attacks. ”Armed organisations should not destroy houses, churches, schools and hospitals.”
According to KHRG, two hundred soldiers from Light Infantry Battalion 530 destroyed 24 civilian houses in Nawng Lon and Kon Ner between 18 and 20 December. A resident of Loilan Lay reported seeing huge plumes of smoke rising from one of the villages.
Some human rights groups have pointed out that the military is using physiological and physical warfare against civilians.
A villager from Kon Ner said BA soldiers broke into people’s houses to steal things and burnt down five houses before withdrawing on 20 December.
”I do not know what to do in the future,” said another person who fled Kon Ner back to a displaced camp where there is no clean drinking water and where residents must share what little food they have.
According to volunteers, the BA’s clearance campaign has already displaced 5,000 people from 12 villages in Loilan Lay. Most of them could not bring anything with them as they fled the attacks. A member of the Karenni Nationalities Defence Force, which fights alongside the Karenni Army, reported five battles with BA in the area in the past week.
According to the Karenni Human Rights Group (KHRG), BA destroyed 651 houses, 6 churches and at least one clinic in Karenni State and Pekon Township in southern Shan State between 21 May and 20 December. Over 150,000 people—more than half the state’s population—have been displaced by the military offensives and fighting with resistance groups. Many civilians are still unable to return home as fighting continues and BA soldiers are present in their villages.