Three Thousand Displaced as Burma Army Attacks Karen Villages

Two Burma Army battalions attacked ten villages and displaced about 3,000 people in the Toungoo District of Burma’s Northern Karen State, a UK-based human rights charity group reported Friday.

According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), there were three clashes between the Burma Army battalions and the Karen National Liberation Army along the Yaw Law river valley between Rangoon and Mandalay from Nov. 28-30. The villages in the area, each containing some 300-500 people, have reportedly been abandoned as people have fled and are hiding out in the jungle where they struggle for medical care, food, shelter and security. It is estimated that one million people are living as Internally Displaced Persons inside Burma.

According to reports, the KNLA suffered no casualties, but three Burma Army soldiers were wounded. The two Burma Army battalions are now in Per Law and Klaw Mu Der villages and are continuing the offensive.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have recently been forced to flee their homes as a direct result of the attacks from the Burma Army,” said Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of CSW. “Sadly they join hundreds of thousands of other people forced to live on the run inside Burma.”

CSW reports that while offensives by the Burma Army against ethnic groups continue, the regime has reportedly released some 9,000 prisoners. Among them is Min Ko Naing, one of Burma's longest standing political dissidents. However, there remain an estimated 1,300 political prisoners inside Burmese prisons. The leader of the National League for Democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi, has recently had her house arrest extended for another year.

“While CSW welcomes the reported releases of many unjustly-held prisoners, many more remain incarcerated in appalling conditions,” Thomas stated. “We will continue to campaign for religious freedom and democracy for the people of Burma."

According to CSW, most opposition groups claim the prisoner releases are a largely empty gesture aimed at gaining political ground at the ASEAN summit held earlier this week in Laos.