This is written to try to give a picture of what is happening here in
Northern and Western Karen State, Burma. Recent Burma Army attacks, road
building, and relief efforts are outlined. (A more detailed description of
relief efforts is available on request.)
Despite cease fire talks the Burma Army continues it offensive
against the Karen people and the KNU in this area. Attacks are also ongoing
in Southern Karenni State. There are 5 main areas of SPDC activity at this
1) The offensive against civilians displacing 4,781 people, burning homes
and rice stocks and the building of three new Burma Army camps in Shweygyn
Township, Nyaunglebin District, Western Karen State. November 14, 2004 – 3
January 2005 (Attacks have now stopped but the occupation, building of the
new camps and displacement of the population are ongoing).
2) The attacks against Karen civilians in Toungoo District, Northern Karen
State, have displaced over 3,000 people. Ongoing forced labor and road
construction in KNU territory. November 28 – 4 December 2004. (Forced labor
and road construction continues, but attacks stopped as of 3 Jan 05).
3) The major improvement of the Kyauk Kyi-Hsaw Hta road, (The road runs east
from Kyauk Kyi to Hsaw Hta on the Salween river. Road building with a
bulldozer and area patrols are ongoing as of this report, 3 January 2005.
Road building crew, bulldozer and Burma Army construction security are now
operating between Ye Mu Plaw and Tha Dah Der, Papun District.
4) On 31 December, 2004 the SPDC (LIB 599), began construction of a new Army
camp in Mawdalaw, Mon Township, Northern Nyaunglebin District, near the
Toungoo. Villagers in the area have been forced to dismantle their homes and
build the camp for the Burma Army. As of 3 January 2005 construction is
5) To the North in the Karenni State, the Burma Offensive has been
relentless since late December 2003 and continues to this day. The SPDC
troops chase IDPs into Toungoo and Papun Districts of the Karen State,
attacking Karenni IDPs hiding there.
In terms of the ceasefire, none of the above SPDC activities are
the result of accidental contact between the SPDC forces and KNLA (KNU
Army). It would be bad but understandable, if during ceasefire negotiations
there were clashes between the SPDC and KNLA. But the attacks against
civilians and road building operations are carefully planned large-scale
operations, mostly against non-military targets. It is a slow but
progressive offensive designed to break down the Karen people and the KNU,
village by village, farm by farm and home by home.
In Nyaunglebin District, Western Karen State, the Burma Army launched a
series of attacks against civilians; burning villages, homes and rice barns
in 5 townships, displacing 4,781 men, women and children. Over 20,000
baskets of rice were burned and the people who fled are still in hiding now.
The Burma Army is building three new camps about 10 kilometers apart and
parallel to each other in a north-south line, creating a de-facto new front
line 10-15 kilometers deeper East into Nyaunglebin District (KNU territory).
Because of these camps and Burma Army patrols, the IDPs cannot go home or
reach their farms. They are hiding in the jungle with what they managed to
escape with and are packed everyday ready to flee again. I talked with one
woman, who is 8 months pregnant as she stood on her bamboo roofless platform
with her families’ three baskets packed ready to flee again. She said she
was very afraid and was ready to run. She said she felt very tired and
afraid and also hungry. She told one of our team,” I want to eat some
noodles, do you have any? If only I could eat some noodles just once then I
She and the over 4,700 IDPs just like her are scattered in groups of 100-300
people in the jungle along streams. They have with them the clothes they
fled with and not much more. A similar operation is occurring in Toungoo
District and in the Karenni State now. The population is terrorized. The
relentless campaign of road building seems to them like a slow
Areas of Quiet:
In spite of these attacks and the building of roads there
are areas of relative peace in this Northern area. You can walk for a week
in some areas and see no recent signs of attack. Instead new schools and
clinics are being built, food is plentiful and the KNU is rebuilding its
offices and administrative centers. In many areas the SPDC seems content for
now to only conduct local patrols and focus on the collection of revenue
instead of fighting the KNLA.
Why the attacks by the Burma Army? I do not know, except that the SPDC is a
dictatorship and will brook no opposition, real, possible or imagined. I am
not sure why the SPDC chose this time to attack. The Karen, (KNU and
villagers), are convinced the orders came from Rangoon. (In the case of the
attacks in Shweygyn Township, Shweygyn is only 160 kilometers from Rangoon).
This seems to be a strangulation of the Karen that only slows or speeds up
in pace. I do not think it will stop whether there are talks or not. The
SPDC have proven consistent in their oppression of every race including
their own and will not likely stop attacking the Karen. I think it is only a
matter of selecting the pace. They are very corrupt and inefficient, so in
selecting the pace it will not always be clear exactly what that pace is.
But it seems to me that they will continue to advance.
As to morals or reason, anyone who can hold Aung San Suu Kyi and many others
captive; commit murder and , burn schools, and chase families with small
children into the jungle is not operating on any good moral or rational
ground. The Burma Army troops in this area have low morale and are poorly
supplied. They are told to get their food from the villages they destroy.
There are also many young soldiers, probably in their teens and discipline
is bad. They are still a dangerous force if nothing else because of sheer
numbers and weapons, but there is dissension and battalion level corruption.
For example when ordered to come back with at least four Karen dead bodies
and four weapons per attacking Battalion, and they got none…some of the
Battalion Commanders bought weapons from the DKBA and tried to pass them off
to their superiors as captured weapons. It is a rotten but deadly system.
Hope and Relief:
The Karen people are amazingly resilient and share
everything they have. They keep each other alive. Schools are restarted in
the jungle with no supplies or buildings, just the will of the teachers and
the desire of the children to learn. Relief teams now have reached many
groups of IDPs and are giving emergency relief as well as love and a
reminder that these people count and are not forgotten. Relief supplies have
begun to arrive in the form of rice, blankets, clothes, medicine, cooking
pots, and gifts for children. Many people around the world do care and are
active to help the people of Burma like these IDPs.
Relief efforts have been amazingly rapid in an area where everything must be
moved by foot. A key to this has been the relationship between the Karen
people and their leaders. The KNU leadership on the ground here is with the
people and share their hardships. They are here, mostly with their families,
living with the IDPs, trying to protect them and then staying with them in
their hiding places. The relief teams (FBR), and local NGOs such as CIDKP,
KORD and KHRG all work together for and with the people. Each of these
organizations is built on the people themselves. It is my hope is that along
with immediate relief, all are helping to try and build up a new Burma. The
mission is not the destruction of the SPDC; I believe they will do that to
In the meantime people are working together to rebuild, to preserve human
dignity and shine a light in a dark time. All here are grateful for those
individuals and NGOs outside who send in help, report and advocate for these
Finally, my own hope is in God who I believe will redeem the people of
God bless you and thank you,
A Free Burma Ranger Team Leader
January 3, 2005