New Burma Army Camps and Continuing Ceasefire Violations Throughout 2019
Throughout 2019, locals documented the Burma Army moving supplies and building up army bases in Karen State. In January 2019, locals observed that the Burma Army had doubled troop numbers at their camps. Typically, such action has been a precursor to more fighting. Multiple skirmishes broke out between Karen soldiers and the Burma Army in 2019. The Burma Army continues to build roads and bridges throughout Karen State without permission, directly violating the National Ceasefire Agreement (NCA). Fighting broke out Feb. 19, 20, and 23 between armed groups as a direct result of the building projects. Villagers have voiced their concerns and opposition to the construction by posting signs and holding protests around the construction areas.
Besides violating the NCA, the ongoing construction by the Burma Army has disrupted the daily lives of villagers. In April 2019, road construction disrupted seven villages in the Muthe area, displacing around 1,000 people into the jungle. The same construction caused water problems for 42 farms in the area. Roads and bridges have destroyed irrigation ditches that the villagers rely on for watering, ploughing, and planting.
The arrival of the Burma Army increases villagers fears on a regular basis. Theyre scared to travel and scared to forage in the jungle for food, and scared to farm. We dare not work in our farms, said villagers in April 2019. Were worried for the next year of our food because now the time is close to prepare for our farming.
On March 27, fighting broke out between Karen soldiers and the Burma Army east of Muthe Village after the Burma Army had patrolled beyond their area, almost reaching a Karen National Defense Organization (KNDO) outpost. Two Burma Army soldiers died in the clash. The same day, another clash broke out on the border of Mu Traw and Kler Lwe Htoo districts. Three Burma Army soldiers were wounded in the clash. On April 5, seven civilians, including a 9-year-old and a 3-year-old, were murdered in Win Ye Township, Doo Playa District, by two Burma Army soldiers from Battalion 339. The soldiers had run away from their base and gone to a local house around 3 a.m. to get a motorbike. When the owners wouldnt give the motorbike to the soldiers, a quarrel broke out and ended with the soldiers shooting the motorbike owners and other villagers. On April 30, Burma Army soldiers shot a villager, Saw Ko Wah Loo, who was looking for his buffalo over 200 meters beyond the car road in the Pa Kaw Ta area. According to ceasefire agreements, Burma Army soldiers are not allowed to patrol beyond 100 meters on either side of car roads in Karen State.
By July 2019, reports showed that five new Burma Army camps had been built in Karen State, with troop and commander movements to match. Civilian homes had been hit with mortars, livestock had been killed, and some villagers had been wounded by the Burma Army. The rest of 2019 continued in a similar pattern with more construction and fighting despite villagers active but nonviolent push against Burma Army advancement and actions.