Situation update of IDPs in Mutraw (Papun) and Kler Lwee Htoo (Nyaunglebin) Districts
Conflict between the Karen National Union (KNU) and Myanmar has reached its most intense level since the ceasefire between them was signed in 2012, threatening to break the ceasefire agreement. Despite the ceasefire, in 2017 heavily guarded Burma Army vehicles began work to expand and upgrade two old dirt roads connecting a string of military bases in Karen lands. The first road runs south from the Bu Sa Kee area of Taw Oo (Toungoo) District and connects with the east-west Kaypu – Pla Koh – Saw Hta road all the way to the Salween River and cutting through northern Mutraw District. The second road which starts from the Mu Theh area of Kler Lwee Htoo District then curves north to connect with the Pla Kho – Saw Hta road. The Burma military claims that these roads will bring the benefits of development to local communities. However, it is evident, especially to local communities, that the road is being used to increase troop deployment and to supply the increasingly fortified Burma military encampments that dominate part of their lands. It is of particular concern to the KNU because in the event of breakdown of the increasingly fragile ceasefire, the improved road access would enable the Burma Army to quickly move and block Karen civilian and military movement in core KNU territories in northern Karen State.