A Worrisome Escalation: Tatmadaw airstrikes kill at least 16 villagers, displace thousands in Mu Traw and Kler Lwee Htoo districts, March 2021

Situation Report
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KHRG’s documentation shows that fighting between the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and the Tatmadaw has escalated in the aftermath of the February 1st 2021 military coup. There has been a rise in both attacks and retaliatory activities throughout KHRG’s operational area, notably in Kler Lwee Htoo [Nyaunglebin], Mu Traw [Hpapun] and Doo Tha Htoo districts [Thaton], in complete violation of section 5(a) of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), which forbids the signatories from carrying out armed attacks in ceasefire areas.

On March 27th 2021, KNLA Brigade 5 attacked and scorched a Tatmadaw outpost along the Salween River manned by Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) #349 soldiers in Thee Mu Hta, near Meh Nuh Hta village, Pah Heh village tract,[7] Bu Tho Township. Ten Tatmadaw soldiers were killed during the attack, and at least eight were taken captive by the KNLA. One KNLA soldier also died.

In what seems to have been a direct response to this attack, the Tatmadaw carried out a series of airstrikes against both KNLA and civilian targets in Mu Traw and Kler Lwee Htoo districts from March 27th to March 30th, killing at least 16 people and injuring 25. Airstrikes were in most cases preceded by reconnaissance flyovers by Tatmadaw drones or helicopters. The bombings led to the displacement of at least 15,000 villagers, the majority of whom still remain in hiding and are in dire need of humanitarian support.