Footage shows scorched earth Karen state

By DVB | Published: 9 September 2010

Footage has been released that shows the shocking aftermath of a recent scorched earth campaign by the Burmese army in eastern Karen state.

 Warning: this video contains distressing images. Footage and images contributed by Back Pack Health Worker Team.

More than 900 people escaped into the surrounding jungle after the village of Dutado (or Tha Dah Der) in Hpapun district came under artillery fire on 23 July. A member of the Thailand-based Back Pack Health Worker Team was shot dead by troops, and the village was razed to the ground. Eye-witness reports said that the artillery fire lasted for around four hours.

The Burmese army left the village the following afternoon as the ruins of some 70 houses, a school and a church were left smouldering. A report released today by the Free Burma Rangers medical group said that “the troops occupied the village through the next day, burning, looting and killing livestock.”
Landmines had reportedly been laid to prevent anyone from returning, a tactic often used to assume indirect control over an area. Karen state is littered with landmines laid by both the Burmese army and armed opposition groups.

Graphic images have also been released of a similar incident that happened on 22 March this year in Nyaunglebin district of Bago division, which borders Hpapun. Villagers from Hoh Lu had been returning from a nearby village, when they encountered a number of Burmese troops from an army base close to Hoh Lu.
The troops opened fire, killing a five-month-old boy and another five-year-old. The mother of one of the children managed to escape. Specific details of the incident and the reasons for the killings remain unclear, but Karen civilians are regularly accused of collaborating with armed rebel groups in the border region, much of which is a shoot-to-kill zone.

Karen state has hosted one of the world’s longest-running civil wars as the Karen National Union (KNU) and its armed wing, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), vie for autonomy from the ruling junta. More than six decades of low-intensity conflict has forced millions from their homes, while villages are regularly burnt to the ground by the Burmese army.

The 12,000-strong KNLA’s wide support base in Karen state means that the Burmese army often exploits a perceived blurred line between civilian and KNLA collaborator, leading to incidents such as these where innocent children are killed. Junta chief Than Shwe, who has presided over Burma’s estimated 500,000-strong army, is now facing calls to be investigated for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

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