Heavy rains hit IDPs sheltering along Thai-Myanmar border

More than a thousand villagers displaced by clashes in Karen State are facing extreme hardship due to recent flooding along the Moei River, according to relief workers.

Two days of heavy rain late last week caused water levels in the river, which separates Myanmar from neighbouring Thailand, to rise dramatically, creating an emergency situation for internally displaced persons (IDPs) sheltering along its banks.

Naw Phaw Lwe, the person in charge of the Palawtapo IDP camp in southern Myawaddy Township, said that flooding has submerged or swept away many temporary shelters and triggered a number of landslides.

She added that there was also a desperate need for food and other basic supplies, including firewood, raincoats, and cooking utensils.

“We receive dry goods from a donor in Mae Sot once a week, but we still need more,” she said, referring to a Thai border town that is home to many exiles from Myanmar.

“We are so tired of moving. It would be best if a ‘safe zone’ could be established where we could stay until the end of the war,” she added.


A riverbank on the Moei River collapses on May 21 (CJ/KIC)

More than 1,300 people, mostly from the villages of Lay Kay Kaw and Htee Mei Wah Khee, have been sheltering in camps along the Moei River since they were forced to flee their homes due to fighting that began late last year.

As the region enters the annual rainy season, IDPs will become increasingly vulnerable to weather conditions that few are equipped to withstand.

One man affected by the current situation said that he was doing his best to fend for himself.

“When the river started to overflow, it washed away our tents. I’ve found a hut to stay in, at least for now, but I still don’t have any food,” he said.

According to Naw Htoo Htoo, the director of the Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG), there could be as many as 20,000 civilians displaced by the recent fighting, many of them cut off from access to aid due to the heavy military presence in the area.

This has led some Karen civil society groups to call on the Thai authorities to allow cross-border aid from international relief organisations. So far, however, most assistance still comes from local donors.

Meanwhile, more rain is forecast for eastern Myanmar in the coming days, according to the country’s meteorological agency. 

Monsoonal winds over the Andaman Sea are expected to bring heavy rains to Karen and Mon states and Yangon and Tanintharyi regions, the agency said on Tuesday.

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