‘Where should I flee next?’: Fighting and displacement in Doo Tha Htoo, Kler Lwee Htoo and Mu Traw districts, December 2020 to January 2021

Situation Report
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The signing of the 2012 preliminary ceasefire, followed by the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) in 2015 resulted in an overall improvement of the human rights and security situation in Doo Tha Htoo [Thaton], Kler Lwee Htoo [Nyaunglebin] and Mu Traw [Hpapun] districts. However, KHRG’s documentation shows that sporadic skirmishes between armed actors have continued to occur over the last few years, mainly in the context of military road construction activities in Mu Traw and Kler Lwee Htoo districts.

December 2020 saw a serious deterioration of the security situation in some areas of Kler Lwee Htoo and Mu Traw districts. The Tatmadaw and its affiliated Border Guard Force (BGF) increased their presence on the ground and stepped up operations in areas controlled by the Karen National Union (KNU) without prior permission, leading to skirmishes with the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA). KHRG also documented several instances of indiscriminate shelling by the Tatmadaw in December and January 2021, resulting in displacement, property damage and injuries.

In Doo Tha Htoo District, fighting between the BGF and the Karen National Defence Organisation (KNDO) broke out in early January 2021 in Yo Klah village tract. Local communities and villagers from nearby village tracts are now afraid that fighting might resume in their area. Therefore, they readopted pre-ceasefire strategies to protect themselves from armed actors and organised demonstrations to call on the Tatmadaw to withdraw from the area and respect the NCA.

Note: At the time of drafting, the security situation in Mu Traw, Kler Lwee Htoo and Doo Tha Htoo districts had become even more volatile. Tensions between the KNU and the Tatmadaw rose further in the aftermath of the February 1st 2021 military coup, resulting in renewed fighting and large-scale internal displacement in late March 2021. This News Bulletin focuses on fighting that took place prior to the military coup and its consequences on the communities affected.