Burma During COVID: An Update

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The Scott family serves at Victory Bible Academy, CFI’s school for Christian refugees from Burma.

Despite ceasefires and COVID shut-downs, Burma continues its attacks on Karen communities. This is their report:

The Burmese Military, called the Tatmadaw, has taken advantage of the pandemic lockdown to increase its military activities within the mostly Christian Karen communities.

Between January and June, Karen communities were warned that if they gather, they may face arrest and could increase the spread of COVID-19. Yet during that time the Tatmadaw performed large military operations to strengthen their army camps, conduct attacks and set up more military posts.

It also sent more soldiers and rations to camps and resumed constructing military road despite the opposition by the Karen National Union (KNU) and the local Karen populace.

The Tatmadaw presented the road construction activities as a development project that will benefit the local communities. However, the Karen National Union sees this project as part of a Tatmadaw strategy to extend its control over Karen areas, and therefore opposes it.

Locals complain that several parts of this construction go straight through farms, communities and local hunting areas completely disrupting the Karen way of life.

Villagers are now afraid to work on farms located near the new construction. Others dug pits for their families to take shelter should fighting break out near their homes. Some community members even went to sleep in the forest because they were afraid that Tatmadaw soldiers would arrest them, attack them, or force them to serve as porters and navigators.

According to a Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG) researcher, at least 207 skirmishes broke out between the Tatmadaw and the KNLA over the last six months as a result of Tatmadaw soldiers trespassing into Karen controlled territory in order to secure land for military road construction activities.

The Karen villagers are at high risk of collateral damage. There have been several civilian casualties, farmland burned, and village buildings destroyed including monuments and churches.

Those skirmishes included widespread distribution of landmines, shelling of civilian areas by government troops, and widespread food shortages as the locals are basically under siege. One community reported that the fighting resulted in the displacement of 2,137 villagers, including 417 children under 5 years of age, while another reported that several people were injured when the Tatmadaw opened fire on a funeral procession.

Groups like Christian Freedom International, manned by graduates of CFI’s Victory Bible Academy, were able to take food, clothes, medicine, household materials and prayer to those affected. But they are not able keep up with the demand.

Please pray for those affected.

God bless,

Joe, Marnie and Maija Scott

From the Thai-Burma Border

All information was gathered by local conversation, eye-witness accounts, and the “Southeast Myanmar Field Report: COVID-19, armed conflict, landmines and sexual violence, January to June 2020.”

 

(Pictured: CFI’s Victory Bible Academy students delivering emergency aid during COVID shut-down.)

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