Civilians in Dooplaya District continue to be impacted by conflict between Burma's state army, the Tatmadaw, and the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), as well as other armed Karen groups.
Clashes were most recently reported this morning, November 28th 2010, at 8 am near Palu Village, Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District. Fighting in Palu injured at least one villager yesterday and, according to villagers that spoke with KHRG, most residents have fled to seek protection in Thailand.
Fighting is expected to continue; a DKBA officer that spoke with KHRG this morning said that the Tatmadaw appeared to be sending reinforcements. Civilians taking refuge in Thailand will need continued protection. Refugees from Palu that spoke with KHRG say they are currently able to stay in Thailand and are receiving support from relief organisations. Thai soldiers are all around them, they said, and some worry they will be ordered to return the moment sounds of fighting are no longer audible.
Fighting occurred in Palu yesterday at 3 pm and ended at 3:40 pm, resuming again at 8:13 pm and ending at 8:30 pm; at least five shells also fell in or near Palu starting at 9:15 pm and ending at 9:40 pm. One civilian, Saw Ht---, also referred to locally as Paw Y---, was injured by mortars and, according to community members providing support to refugees from Palu, taken to a hospital in Thailand. His condition has yet to be confirmed.
According to a community leader that spoke with KHRG, Palu village is home to 450 people divided into two sections, Palu Bpa Doh ('Big Palu') and Palu Poe ('Small Palu'). Palu Bpa Doh is home to 300 civilians and Palu Poe is home to 150.
"The SPDC started sending rations last week on Thursday. The DKBA told our village head that they will block the Tatmadaw and it's better for the villagers to leave the village. Some of the villagers left the village on Thursday, but at that time the fighting had not happened yet. The fighting happened today [November 27th 2010] at around 3 pm but we had already left for Thailand. All of the villagers are now in Thailand. The fighting stopped at around 3:40 pm... I don't know if the shelling will start again, but we have to wait and see. We are now in Thailand and the Thai soldiers stay close to us."
Naw Bp--- (Female), Palu village, Kawkareik Township (Interviewed in Thailand, November 27th 2010)
Villagers told KHRG that many residents of Palu had been fleeing to Thailand since Thursday, when the DKBA warned the community that fighting was likely to occur. Most that had yet to flee did so yesterday, residents told KHRG. Some remaining villagers also attempted to flee this morning, a resident told KHRG, but are being prevented from crossing the Moei River by Tatmadaw soldiers. The Moei River forms the border between Thailand and Burma near Palu village.
A DKBA officer that spoke with KHRG yesterday evening explained that fighting has been occurring because the DKBA had blocked Tatmadaw soldiers as they attempted to re-supply troops in Waw Lay village, which lies a short distance to the south of Palu.
The SPDC [State Peace and Development Council] soldiers planed to send their supplies to their soldiers based in Waw Lay and other camps close to the border. Due to this, we [DKBA] blocked their plan, so the [Tatmdaw] troops have to stop in Palu and can't manage to send their supplies. They [Tatmadaw] started sending supplies last week, but because we [DKBA] blocked them they couldn't continue. On November 27th 2010, at around 3 pm fighting happened between the DKBA and SPDC. Troops from the SPDC that sent supplies [are from] Battalion #61. There were more than 100 soldiers.
Both Palu and Waw Lay villages are located just across the Thailand-Burma border, adjacent to Thailand's Phop Phra District, Tak Province. According relief workers, Palu was also the site of attempted 'peace talks' between the DKBA and Tatmadaw on November 26th. These talks were not successful.
Waw Lay village, meanwhile, was the former home of commander Na Kha Mway, who is leading sections of the DKBA that have been fighting the Tatmadaw since November 7th 2010, when tensions over the group's refusal to transform into a government controlled 'Border Guard Force' turned into open conflict.
Conflict between the Tatmadaw and DKBA along with other armed Karen groups such as the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) in Dooplaya and Pa'an districts, as well conflict-related human rights abuses such as arbitrary arrests and forced portering, have driven thousands of refugees to cross into Thailand since November 7th 2010.
Initial influxes of refugees occurred after fighting in the large border-crossing towns of Myawaddy and Three Pagodas Pass; in just a few days following November 7th 2010, more than 20,000 refugees fled to Thailand.
Many of the refugees that initially fled were able to return home. However, civilians from areas where conflict and conflict related abuses continue to be threats to their security have repeatedly sought protection in Thailand. Refugees have been criss-crossing the Thailand-Burma border, attempting to balance the need to secure their homes from looting and harvest fields with the need to protect their families from acute harm. This will continue to be the most effective means of protection available to them and it is imperative that civilians seeking protection in Thailand are able to do so.