By SEAN GLEESON | FRONTIER
YANGON — Villagers displaced by the Tatmadaw’s move into a remote part of Kayin State earlier this month have publicly rallied to demand the army’s withdrawal.
Sources on the ground said around 1,000 protestors from the Ler Mu Plaw and Kay Bu village tracts in Hpapun Township gathered Monday to demand an end to the Tatmadaw’s occupation of the area since March 4, which has prompted clashes with the Karen National Liberation Army and prompted many to flee their homes.
“More than 1,700 of our villagers, including the elderly, women, and children, have fled during the last two weeks and are now hiding in the forest,” said a community statement on Monday. “In this mountainous region, it is cold at night, and our people are suffering from psychological trauma and various illnesses, exacerbated by shortages of food and medicine.”
The Tatmadaw is believed to be constructing a road in the area, located near the Thai border and under the de facto control of the KNLA. Locals fear the expansion of the road network will entrench military control of the area and precipitate further conflict in Hpapun.
The Karen National Union, the KNLA’s political wing, is one of eight signatories to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, and also signed a bilateral ceasefire in 2012.
Under the terms of the NCA, the Tatmadaw is required to seek formal permission before moving soldiers into territories controlled by other NCA signatories.