Tuesday, April 23, 2024

The Cost of Armed Conflict: Stories of Lost Homes and Broken Lives

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“We no longer have a home that we can return to, and this has led us to feel down and unhappy,” Ko Kyi Nyo said in a shaky voice.

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Ko Kyi Nyo, who is 28 years old, has always been passionate about devoting his time and energy into charitable activities. He continues to be dedicated to his charitable efforts despite losing his home and being on the run.

Before the coup, Ko Kyi Nyo was actively engaged in a social organization in Mo Bye, Shan State. However, due to the coup, he was compelled to leave his home, becoming a displaced person.

Though once displaced and in need of assistance, Ko Kyi Nyo now extends help to other displaced individuals.

“I was already a member of a charity group in my town before the military coup occurred. When the coup led to clashes in our area, we were forced to flee,” explained Ky Kyi Nyo. “While being on the run, I am also determined to assist our fellow internally displaced persons (IDPs).”

Temporary IDPs shelter
Temporary IDPs shelter.

Despite the looming threat of surveillance by the SAC regime, Ky Kyi Nyo courageously persists in his philanthropic efforts to aid displaced individuals.
Mo Bye, the place where Ky Kyi Nyo resides and used to work, witnessed the first attack on the SAC regime’s military outpost in March 2021. Even now, Mo Bye remains one of the areas where military tensions persist, with ongoing clashes between the SAC and the People’s Defense Forces (PDF).

The frequent and intense confrontations in Mo Bye town have made it difficult for its people to find stability and live in peace. Consequently, the residents of Mo Bye have been left with no choice but to seek refuge in displaced camps, where they try to carry on with their daily lives amidst the challenging circumstances.

In June of last year, the town of Mo Bye experienced a resurgence of clashes between the military council and the People’s Defense Forces (PDF). The confrontations involved the use of heavy weaponry, including drones, from both sides.

In the middle of the continuous fighting, the military council soldiers sought shelter and hid in residents’ homes. Meanwhile, members of the People’s Defense Forces also reside in the homes of local people .

During the clashes, as the military council soldiers attempt to hide in local homes, the People’s Defense Forces (PDF) responded by targeting the SAC regime with drones, resulting in damage to several residential houses, including Ko Kyi Nyo’s home.

Recounting the incident, Ko Kyi Nyo stated, “On that day, the SAC soldiers were hiding in our house. The PDFs then launched a drone attack from above, causing damage to our home. Sadly, many other houses were also affected by the destruction caused by heavy weapons.”

According to a male activist from Mo Bye, it has been two years since the coup d’état, and during this period, armed clashes have led to the destruction of approximately half of the people’s homes in the town.

“In the initial stages of the damages, we were able to keep a list of the houses affected. However, now it’s become impossible for us to access the town anymore. There has been intense destruction and damage. Nearly half of the city has been ravaged,” he stated.

As of September 2022, the Karen National Defense Force (KNDF) reported that over 100 houses were damaged in Mo Bye as a result of the ongoing conflict and armed clashes.

SAC burned down houses of the village
SAC burned down houses of the village.

The most recent data, which ISP Myanmar released in September 2022, showed that more than 36,000 structures in Myanmar were damaged after the coup, with the majority of them being burned down.

In a matter of minutes, Ko Kyi Nya’s family home, which had been built with their hard-earned savings and lovingly maintained for over 50 years, was completely destroyed. Despite the immense devastation, they found themselves unable to do anything except offering self-comforting words like, “that’s our misfortune.”

“I find it hard to put into words the depth of our emotions; at times, they become inexplicably profound. How do we even begin to rebuild from scratch? Our parents’ hard work and savings of over 50 years went into building this house, and now they won’t be able to reconstruct it just like that. It feels like we’re left to the whims of fate or the unfortunate circumstances,” Ko Kyi Ying expressed, grappling with the immense loss and uncertainty.

What Ko Kyi Nyo can do currently is praying for courage to get through this difficult time and feeling helpless. He also looks forward to a better political future. However, he also remains steadfast in his commitment to support the success of the revolution.

“It’s reasonable to feel sad and discouraged given the circumstances, but staying in that frame of mind won’t get us anywhere. We must work to recover. Ko Kyi Nyo said with despair, “We are still young, therefore we may still strive”.

Meanwhile, Ko Kyi Nyo made a heartfelt request that armed clashes and military confrontations be kept far away from the town and residential areas of both regular citizens and displaced persons.

“Actually, it would be better if armed clashes were conducted far away from the city and residential areas, like in the jungle and mountains,” remarked Ko Kyi Nyo. “The SAC soldiers are using people’s homes as their shelters and shields, leaving the People’s Defense Force with no choice but to engage in attacks.”

According to a member of the Mobye People’s Defense (PDF), fighting is occurring in the city because the military councils have stationed themselves in residential areas, indiscriminately shelling heavy weapons in all directions, including residential places. This has led to clashes in the towns, posing a significant threat to the residents.

“A lot of houses were damaged since armed clashes are taking place in the city, causing numerous damages and greatly affecting civilians,” stated a PDF member.

The situation is dire, with the military council forces resorting to extreme measures such as taking people hostage, killing civilians, and even firing heavy weapons at IDP camps.

IDPs shelter
IDPs shelter

According to a report by Karenni’s Voice, in July, the fighting between the PDF and SAC resulted in the loss of 17 lives, with 11 people sustaining injuries.

ISP Myanmar’s report also reveals that Shan State has tragically ranked fifth in terms of suffering the highest civilian death rate within the span of more than two years after the coup.

Sadly, civilians have been reduced to mere pawns and are bearing the brunt of the ongoing armed clashes and battles between the Military Council and the People’s Defense Forces.

Moreover, the people of Shan State are currently enduring not only the oppressions of the SAC regime but also facing challenges from ethnic armed forces.

Since the military coup in Myanmar, over 2.5 million people have been displaced, both as internally displaced individuals and refugees.

In response to this humanitarian crisis, UNHCR has been providing much-needed relief materials to those affected by the conflict. These include essential items such as blankets, kitchen appliances, mosquito nets, water buckets, sleeping mats, clothes, solar lamps, and basic household items.

Furthermore, displaced communities are receiving support from UNHCR in the form of roof tiles and sufficient materials to construct their own shelters. However, at present, UNHCR has not collected specific data on house damage caused by the ongoing conflict and displacement.

As a displaced person who lost his home during the war, Ko Kyi Nyo is deeply saddened by the realization that even if the conflict were to end and tensions were to ease, he would have no home to return to.

“Even if the situation were to improve and we could consider returning home, there is no home left for us,” Ko Kyi Nyo expressed with sorrow. He expressed his concern for others as well, not wanting them to experience the same devastation of having their homes damaged or destroyed as he did.

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