“It was very different from the previous operations. We couldn’t find a shelter, as it was taking place all over my district” said Saw Mar Su (53), who fled Kolu village in Tangoo district to arrive in Ei Tu Hta after 12 days jungle trekking. His village has been burned down four times by the Burmese Army who forcibly displaced people to “Turmidoe” village which is 6 hours away on foot. It is generally understood that the Burmese military routinely burn down villages as a means to relocate people, often aiming at alienating villagers from insurgency and using them as porters. But it was not a typical scene that the Army didn’t retreat village after burning it, as this was happening in the said operation.
“So we couldn’t rebuild our house, no farming…. That’s why we fled to this edge” Saw Mar Su continued.
The offensive in Eastern Burma was launched in November 2005 in coincidence with the launch of new capital Neypidaw, which is strategically located in a junction of the civil war-ravaged ethnic states. The Burmese Junta seemed to have attempted to root out any influence of insurgency around the area of new capital.
Meanwhile, taking further boat trip from Ei Tu Hta to the north for about 30 minutes, another camp site was being emerged in Ueclo, where some 480 IDPs have been sheltering since July 2007. The camp is called ‘Section 6 of Ei Tu Hta’ and IDPs here are late arrivals after having endured the army assault utmost. As like other refugee camps, Ueclo used to be nothing but a deep forest, where people establish their temporary shelter, where they try to farm as much as they can. However Ueclo is not the place for farming because much of rocks surround the area. People complaint they cannot cultivate vegetables either.
“First we arrived here in 2006 to spend a week under the open sky without proper lying place. And then we moved to Ei Tu Hta”
Nancy (60), the English teacher for the ‘Post Ten School’ in Ei Tu Hta camp, recalled those days. She has fled to Ei Tu Hta with his ailing husband, whom she had to pick up on her back A-frame for 12 days in a jungle.
“I feel rather safe in Ei Tu Hta first in decades, during which I’ve had to move numerous times” she added.
Yet ‘safe’ is not a sustainable word in this ‘Jungle world’. After the Burma Army and the pro-Junta Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (or DKBA) have jointly assaulted upon ‘Brigade 7’ – southern Karen state - in June, a sequent operation has been predicted in ‘Brigade 5’ in September, October or anytime soon after rainy season. The offensive in Brigade 7 was unprecedentedly conducted in rainy season but became a ‘success’ for the Junta and DKBA, as the area was fallen to them after 3 weeks-long fierce battle with KNLA. As a result, some 4,000 IDPs in Ler Per Her camp in Brigade 7 have been displaced to the Tha Song Yang refugee camp on Thai side. Remnants of KNLA since then have been ambushing the DKBA, which has been now controlling the area. With no one’s doubt, it was the greatest loss for KNU since the fall of Manerflaw in 1995, where it used to be headquartered.