A widowed mother of three in Kayah state says the military takeover of Myanmar has dashed her hopes for a better life after she spent her a childhood spent fleeing civil war.
Dah Moe, 38, was once again forced to pack up her family and leave her home for a camp of Internally Displaced Refugees (IDPs) as troops cracked down on anti-junta protests near her home village of Loilen in Kayah’s Loikaw township in May.
“We ran out of food while running from the fighting — we fled because the village we lived in was close to the army in the Loilen area,” she told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
“At first, I was determined not to run. In the end, people couldn’t tend to the paddies they had outside the village and had to leave. Plus, my parents are getting old. The soldiers would fire heavy weapons at our village whenever they wanted to.”
Dah Moe said she and her family relocated from village to village before finally settling in a refugee camp in an area of Kayah controlled by the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) that is near Myanmar’s border with Thailand.
It has been around five months since she and her children arrived in the camp, which is now home to more than 1,000 people who have relocated amid the military offensive in Kayah and other remote border regions of the country that it launched after seizing power.
As a child, Dah Moe said she was regularly on the run with her parents because of an ongoing civil war between the country’s former junta and ethnic Karen fighters. She was born as a refugee in Loikaw’s Htaythama village.
As an adult, she said she had hoped that her children would not have to endure the same hardships she and her parents had. But, after losing her husband 10 years ago and being forced to leave behind everything she and her family had built, she no longer believes that their lives will be any better.
“I lost all hope when this coup took place. I got tired of living in Myanmar and came here. I thought I might be able to send my children to school here and would be able to live peacefully in an IDP camp,” she said, referring to the area being under KNPP control.
“I thought it’d be a place where others give you protection, unlike in the war zone. I came out here to a liberated area hoping that I would be happy.”
Prior to fleeing the most recent fighting, Dah Moe, who had attended a midwife basic training course, provided medical care for people in remote villages to feed her family. She lost her income when she arrived at the refugee camp.
“I lost everything. We have no house. Our hopes for the children’s future, their education, are all ruined,” she said.
“I had expectations that my life would become comfortable. My hopes for my children are all gone now. They cannot study in a school because I do not want us to live under military rule.”
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in September that more than 120,000 people have been displaced by fighting since May 21 in Kayah and southeastern Shan states, while tens of thousands have fled clashes in Chin, Kachin, and Karen states, as well as Magway and Sagaing regions.
In late August, OCHA announced that the number of people who need humanitarian aid in Myanmar had increased to nearly two million since the military coup. Those displaced by the recent fighting join more than 500,000 refugees from decades of conflict between the military and ethnic armies, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, a Norwegian NGO.
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