Shelling by Myanmar’s military forced more than 10,000 people to flee their homes in eastern Bago Region’s Kyaukkyi Township over the weekend, according to the Karen National Union (KNU).
In a statement released on Monday, the group said that heavy artillery fire affected a dozen villages along both sides of the Penwegon-Kyaukkyi highway, including Naung Kone, Inn Nat, Le Waing Gyi, Nat Than Kone and Hle Lan Kwin.
At least five people were injured and several buildings were destroyed by the shelling, said the group, which clashed with regime forces in the area on Saturday and Sunday.
According to the statement, fighting continues southwest of Kyaukkyi in Nyaunglebin Township, which is under the control of Brigade 3 of the KNU’s armed wing, the Karen National Liberation Army.
A spokesperson for Nyaunglebin District Karen Affairs, a group that assists local residents affected by conflict, said that the recent fighting has made it difficult to meet the food and healthcare needs of displaced villagers.
“The public doesn’t feel very secure right now. The military’s use of heavy artillery has forced many to leave,” the spokesperson said.
In a statement released on Sunday, the group called the shelling of civilian villages “an act of terror” by the Myanmar military, which it has also accused of capturing and torturing civilians.
According to the KNU, the junta has been sending more troops into the area as reinforcements for the units already there. It said that four light infantry battalions—20, 124, 350, and 439—are currently active in Nyaunglebin.
Despite being a signatory to the 2015 Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, the KNU has openly declared its opposition to the regime that seized power in a coup in February of last year.
The group has engaged in a number of fierce clashes with the regime, with fighting intensifying since last December, when junta troops forced their way into a KNU-controlled town that had been sheltering anti-coup activists.
The military has carried out multiple airstrikes during these clashes, and routinely uses heavy artillery in combat zones, despite the risk to local civilian populations.
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