20,000 displaced by battles: Myanmar rescue workers

Fighting between junta and ethnic armed groups is pushing people from their villages, according to residents.
By RFA Burmese
20,000 displaced by battles: Myanmar rescue workers Civilians who fled villages in southern part of Hsihseng township, on May 8, 2024.
Citizen journalist

Updated May 09, 2024, 08:22 a.m. EDT.

Clashes have forced more than 20,000 people from their homes in Myanmar, residents and rescue teams told Radio Free Asia on Thursday, exacerbating what the United Nations has warned is a deepening humanitarian crisis.

The junta, which took power in a 2021 coup, has faced growing resistance from allied insurgent groups since October last year in several parts of the country.

Over recent days, some 10,000 people had been forced to flee fighting in Kachin State in the north and even more had fled clashes in Shan State in northeastern Myanmar, residents and an aid worker in the conflict zones told RFA.

In Kachin State, fighting has intensified in Mansi and Momauk townships since ethnic minority Kachin insurgents attacked junta positions on Wednesday, a resident said.

Junta forces had withdrawn from Momauk while many civilians had also fled, they said.

“There are no people in the city, and many homes have also been damaged,” said the resident who declined to be identified for security reasons. More than 10,000 people had left villages across Mansi and Momauk townships, residents estimated, while in Shan State’s Hsihseng township, an even greater number of people had fled from their homes, people there said.

The United Nations said last week more than three million people have been displaced due to fighting in Myanmar, with numbers increasing significantly in the past six months since insurgents battling the junta that seized power in 2021 stepped up their offensives.

In the town of Mansi, another resident told RFA that the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and allied fighters had been attacking junta camps. The insurgent group has been on the offensive since February, fighting the military regime for land and trade routes in the resource-rich state.

“They were fighting over Mansi city until today. All the civilians have fled,” the Mansi resident said. “Three people were killed by the artillery and airstrikes. Some people fled to Bhamo and some fled to Man Wein Gyi.”

On Monday, the KIA captured a bridge from junta forces in Mansi township. The next day they seized a camp in Mogaung, several townships away, and junta-affiliated police stations in Mansi he added. KIA information officer Col. Naw Bu told RFA the junta was retaliating with heavy weapons and airstrikes.

The junta has not released any information about its operations in Kachin State. RFA attempted to contact the state’s junta spokesperson, Moe Min Thein for comment, but he did not answer phone calls.

More than 8,000 people live in Mansi and 10,000 people in Momauk township, according to a 2014 census, indicating that over half of the population has fled the area.

In Shan State to the south, the estimated number of people in Hsihseng township fleeing battles between the junta and the Pa-O National Liberation Army ethnic minority insurgent group, is considerably higher, a rescue worker told RFA Wednesday.

“As far as we know, there are about 50,000 people who had to flee,” said the worker who declined to be identified, adding that out of this group, only 10,000 couldn’t be accounted for in Hsaik Hkawng San Pya village. “They came in droves and they haven’t received any help yet.”

RFA was not able to verify the estimated number of people displaced.

Those fleeing Hsaik Hkawng were being given shelter in monasteries, and as of Thursday morning, more people were coming in urgent need of food and shelter, he added.

RFA attempted to contact Shan State’s junta spokesperson, Khun Thein Maung, for confirmation on the number of refugees fleeing Hsihseng township, but he did not respond to enquiries.

Translated by RFA Burmese. Edited by Kiana Duncan and Mike Firn. 

 Updated to correct name of Hsaik Hkawng San Pya village.


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