Spreading clashes between the Myanmar army and an ethnic armed group in eastern Myanmar’s Shan state have forced more than 150 residents of the town of Kutkai to flee to safety to Theinni town, local lawmakers said Tuesday.
Ongoing hostilities between the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the government military and occasional clashes between the TNLA and a rival ethnic militia — the Shan State Army-South (SSA-S) — have forced thousands of residents in northern Shan state to flee their homes and seek shelter in Buddhist monasteries.
The more than 150 residents of Pharsai and Saikhaung villages in Kutkai have taken shelter inside a monastery in Theinni’s Kaungai village, said Nang Khin Htar Ye, a member of the Shan state parliament from the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) party, who represents the constituency of Theinni.
“Kaungai villagers are helping them, and we have sent food for them,” she told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
Those who fled said two military helicopters each attacked the villages twice, though no civilians were injured when they began running away after hearing gunshots from the fighting, according to Eik Mon, a member of the Shan state parliament who represents Kutkai’s constituency No. 1.
The evacuations come as the Myanmar government gears up for the third round of the 21st-Century Panglong Conference, de facto national leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s key peace initiative to end decades of civil wars between ethnic militias and the Myanmar army.
The government said it intends to hold the next series of talks in February.
The TNLA was excluded from signing a nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA) with the Myanmar government in October 2015, and it has largely remained outside the country’s slow-moving peace process.
Two other non-signatories of the pact — the New Mon State Party (NMSP) and the Lahu Democratic Union (LDU) — have agreed to sign the NCA on Feb. 13, state media reported.
Reported by Wai Mar Tun and Tin Aung Khine for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.