“Nowhere Is Safe”: Myanmar Bombing Shatters “Peace Town”

Photo collage of an image supplied by SNK of a young girl and a dog sitting next the Moei River along the Myanmar-Thailand border on 26 December 2021. Behind them are a pile of multicoloured sacks of supplies and two women, one seated, and one standing and holding a baby. The image is stylised with a photo of paint texture by Steve Johnson on Unsplash. Charis Loke

Rows of tarpaulin shelters line the Myanmar side of the Moei River near the Thai border. The makeshift huts, often propped up by only a handful of bamboo rods, barely hold off rain, but for those sleeping beneath, it’s the only semblance of safety they have.

Many now living in these ad hoc shelters fled their homes on 15 December, a day after  fighting erupted between the Myanmar military and anti-junta forces in nearby Lay Kay Kaw Village, in southeastern Myanmar. Thousands of people were displaced within only a couple of days. The village has since fallen to the military.

Lay Kay Kaw, once known as a “peace town”, was set up in 2017 as a post-conflict reconstruction partnership between the Japanese Nippon Foundation, the Myanmar government and the Karen National Union to house returning Karen refugees after decades of fighting between the military and ethnic Karen armed groups. Before the fighting in December, the village was home to some 4,000 people, according to the village administration, and it had been true to its name, with no previous fighting reported.

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