Karen State September 2016 Conflict: The Real Motivations Behind Renewed War

While the Burmese government and Karen leaders are holding historic peace talks in Naypyidaw, the Burma Army and its Border Guard Force (BGF) wages war in Karen State to expand its control over Karen territories, in order to push for an environmentally and socially destructive hydropower project on the Salween River – the Hatgyi Dam.

Karen Rivers Watch, a network of Karen community-based organizations working to protect the Salween River, calls attention to the fact that this is not the first time that the Burma military has instigated conflict in Karen State to take control of Hatgyi Dam area. From September to October 2014, a series of violent clashes caused chaos across both Mon and Karen states, displacing over 2,000 people.1 Two years later, the Burma military is taking the same steps once again in Karen State, instead of de-escalating existing conflicts.

The Burma Army is taking advantage of the BGF-Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) splinter group conflict to take new territory and reinforce its forward positions in Karen State, in order to ensure that the Hatgyi Dam project can move ahead without opposition. In the process of doing so, the Burma Army and the BGF have displaced over 5,000 people from their homes in a matter of days, many of whom have taken shelter in Myaing Gyi Ngu town.

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