Myanmar Villagers Retreat to Refugee Camps to Escape Fighting in Northern Shan State


2016-12-29
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myanmar-villagers-tnla-fighting-kyaukme-dec29-2016.jpg Myanmar villagers who fled fighting between government troops and Ta'ang National Liberation Army soldiers take shelter in a school in Kyaukme, Myanmar's northern Shan state, Dec. 29, 2016.
RFA

More than 150 villagers have fled to camps in Kyaukme township in the northern part of Myanmar’s volatile Shan state to escape intensified fighting between government soldiers and Ta’ang National Liberation Army troops, a local lawmaker said Thursday.

Sai Tun Nyan of the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party, who represents the town of Kyaukme, said he and another state lawmaker took residents of Nyaung Maung village to safety in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in Kyaukme.

The two Shan state parliamentarians intend to take more people to the camps there as villagers fear for their safety during the ongoing bout of fighting that began on Dec. 26.

“Because the government army used airstrikes, people were killed and injured, and houses were damaged,” said Sai Tun Nyan.

“People are afraid, and more than 150 IDPs have arrived in Kyaukme,” he said.

“One more truck has gone to the fighting area to bring more IDPs to Kyaukme,” he said. “We haven’t been able to send any of the IDPs home recently because they feel insecure and have emotional wounds.”

So far, three men have been killed, and eight other villagers, including three Buddhist monks, have been injured in the latest round of fighting.

The TNLA is part of the Northern Alliance of four ethnic militias that launched coordinated attacks on Nov. 20 on 10 government and military targets in war-torn northern Shan state.

The other members of the alliance are the Arakan Army (AA), Kachin Independence Army (KIA), and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA).

The TNLA has also been fighting another ethnic armed group—the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA)—in the region since late November 2015, about six weeks after the signing of a nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA) between the government and eight of the country’s more than 20 ethnic armed groups.

The TNLA was excluded from signing the accord because of its ongoing hostilities with Myanmar armed forces.

Group leader abducted

Meanwhile, a northern branch leader of the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF) was abducted by the military on Wednesday while he was on his way to Laiza, the capital of KIA-controlled territory in neighboring Kachin state on Myanmar’s border with China, the group’s general secretary said Thursday.

Soldiers abducted and arrested Min Htay as he was on his way home from a meeting about state-level peace talks in Mae Sot, Thailand, said ABSDF general secretary Sonny Mahinder.

No one from the ABSFD, which is a signatory to the NCA, knows where Min Htay is, but the group is working with government military officers and local authorities to try to secure his freedom, he said.

“We found out about him at around 9 p.m. last night, and we are still searching for him,” he said.

Min Htay played a Myanmar military officer in the American movie “Rambo 4” with actor Sylvester Stallone.

Clashes between the KIA and government army have intensified this week, forcing more than 2,000 IDPs to flee their camps and look for safer places.

Government soldiers have captured KIA battalion headquarters and stations, including the militia’s strategic mountaintop Gidon outpost in Waingmaw township on Dec. 16.

The fighting has resulted in an increase in the number of internal refugees and civilian deaths and has stymied the government’s efforts to bring warring ethnic militias to the negotiating table.

The United Nations estimates that more than 100,000 people have been displaced by fighting between government soldiers and ethnic armed groups in Kachin and the northern part of neighboring Shan state.

Reported by Ko Kan Thar and Aung Moe Myint for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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