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Burning Karen State: Retaliatory burning of houses and property against rural civilian communities of Southeast Burma (2021 and 2022)

March 31st, 2023  •  Author:   Karen Human Rights Group  •  2 minute read
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 1. Introduction

“We always have to be afraid due to the coup. […] We worry that they will burn the village or kill people [civilians]. They might kill us if someone [KNLA] shoots at them.”[1]

Following the 2021 coup[2] led by the Burma (Myanmar)[3] military, rural communities in Karen State[4] have been continuously targeted by the State Administration Council (SAC)[5] in various ways, severely impacting their safety, livelihood and living conditions. Among those violations, houses and property destruction are widespread. According to KHRG documentation, the SAC began to set fire to Karen villages in May 2021, burning at least 170 civilian houses as well as other properties such as shops, vehicles and food across Karen State, reminiscent of scorched earth policies enacted in the past by Burma military.

This report[6] provides a concise overview of the main dynamics in relation to retaliatory burning of houses and property against rural civilian communities systematically committed by SAC soldiers. It presents a broad overview of the political and security context in Burma, and more precisely in Karen State, provides evidence of abuses, and expands on villagers’ agency in the face of such challenges. It also gives a security and legal analysis of the situation, as well as a set of policy recommendations that KHRG urges international stakeholders to follow.

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