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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