On July 21st 2015, a community member trained by KHRG to monitor local human rights conditions met with monk U T---, from G--- monastery in Kawkareik Town, Dooplaya District. Monk U T--- reported to him that during the fighting between the Burma/Myanmar Tatmadaw’s Border Guard Force (BGF) and Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA) that started on July 2nd 2015 and continued sporadically throughout the month, more than 1,000 villagers were temporarily displaced, many of whom were sheltering in his monastery and R--- monastery in Kawkareik Town.
The fighting broke out between Tatmadaw and DKBA soldiers on the Asian Highway between Myawaddy and Kawkareik Town on July 2nd 2015. The fighting erupted after attempts were made by Tatmadaw soldiers to secure this section of the Asian Highway ahead of the newly built road’s opening ceremony. Tensions between the Tatmadaw and DKBA escalated into conflict when Tatmadaw soldiers ordered the DKBA to remove their base from the highway. The villagers from surrounding areas who were affected by the fighting had to leave their homes; they were unable to tend to their paddy fields and some of their properties have been destroyed as a result of the fighting.
According to monk U T--- the displaced villagers staying at G--- and R--- monasteries were from five different villages located in Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District. These villages are:
1. A--- village;
2. B--- village. Fighting took place again in B--- village at 8 am on July 21st 2015;
3. C--- village;
4. D--- village and,
5. E--- village.
Monk U T--- reported that during the period of July 2nd to July 6th 2015, the villagers who were temporarily displaced and sheltering in his monastery attempted to go back to their villages to look after their farms, plantations, and livestock during the daytime, returning in the evening to sleep at the monastery. All the boys and adult male villagers in particular were staying at the monastery, as they were afraid that they would be ordered to porter for the Tatmadaw soldiers if they were found in the villages.
Finally, monk U T--- explained that as a result of the fighting between the Tatmadaw and DKBA soldiers, children from these five villages were unable to go to school because the schools had to close, so they attended classes that were held at nearby villagers’ houses. The teachers told the students that the schools were closed because of the fighting. The teachers were too concerned for the welfare of the students to let them attend school, because they were afraid that there would be more fighting in the areas surrounding the schools. The schools reopened later in July 2015 when the fighting ceased. In addition to the schools being forced to close, monk U T--- reported that there is a clinic established by the Karen Department of Health and Welfare (KDHW) in K--- village that was also prevented from providing services to the villagers during the fighting, as the medics from that clinic were also afraid to stay and work there.
In addition to the information provided by monk U T---, KHRG also received the following information on some of the consequences of the fighting that took place during July 2015 along the Asian Highway between the Tatmadaw and DKBA:
- On July 4th 2015, a lady over 50 years old from L--- village, Kawkareik Township was hit by grenade shrapnel in her backside and was injured as a result of the fighting.
- On July 6th 2015, fighting occurred between Tatmadaw soldiers from Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) #545 and DKBA soldiers in S--- area, between M--- and N--- villages, Hlaingbwe Township, Hpa-an District. The fighting lasted from 7:00 pm until 7:30 pm and caused the deaths of two villagers.
- Construction of Aw Hpa Bridge in Aw Hpa village stopped for two days due to the fighting. The company that is building the bridge is scheduled to finish the project in September 2015, but they had to temporarily cease working, because the fighting was dangerously close to the bridge construction site.
- On July 7th 2015, a grenade fired from an M79 grenade launcher hit a primary school building located within the grounds of the high school in Chaung Thaung section, Kawkareik Town. Part of the primary school was destroyed, but as the incident took place at 7 am in the morning the school was not yet open and consequently no students were harmed. According to the KHRG community member, two DKBA soldiers from the Klo Htoo Baw battalion, under Battalion Commander Bee Kyee, went to the area near Kawkareik Town by motorbike and fired two grenades from an M79 grenade launcher into Chaung Taung section. One grenade hit the primary school building roof, damaging the roof and the window. Another grenade hit the ground and exploded at the back of the school grounds. According to villagers who witnessed the two DKBA soldiers firing the M79 grenade launcher, the two soldiers headed back towards V--- village, Kawkareik Township after the incident.
- On July 17th 2015 at 5:30 am, there was fighting between DKBA soldiers led by Bo San Aung, whose company is known as na ma kya [deaf ear] and is under the Kloh Htoo Baw battalion, and Tatmadaw soldiers from LIB #231, who combined with LIB #230, led by Major Thet Paing Zaw and Deputy Battalion Commander Major Soe Min. The fighting took place in and around Y--- village, Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District. Some villagers fled to their friends’ houses in Kawkareik Town, while some villagers fled to H--- village in Kawkareik Township. Some villagers also escaped to G--- monastery in Kawkareik Town, whilst villagers from C--- village fled to R--- monastery.
- On July 21st 2015, villagers from Z--- village, Kawkareik Township, reported to KHRG that there was a violent clash between DKBA and Tatmadaw soldiers on July 20th 2015, on Kaw Tha Wa Mountain, close to Kyaikdon Town, Kawkareik Township. The villagers from Z--- village reported that they felt extremely frightened and vulnerable to the negative impacts that might result from the fighting between the armed actors.
- On July 22nd 2015, members of the 969 Movement donated food that was worth 14 million kyat (US $11,996.57) to families of around 350 internally displaced persons (IDPs), who were staying at P--- monastery, R--- monastery and W--- monastery.