Up­swing in Shan State fight­ing drives 2000 from their homes

The Myanmar Times - - News - THU THU AUNG thuthuaung@mm­times.com

RE­NEWED fight­ing be­tween the Tat­madaw and na­tion­wide cease­fire sig­na­tory Restora­tion Coun­cil of Shan State is again over­shad­ow­ing the peace process and threat­en­ing to un­der­mine re­cent ef­forts at ne­go­ti­a­tion.

The clashes erupted on Oc­to­ber 1 and have al­ready driven 2000 IDPs from their homes to seek refuge in Mine Kaing/Mong Kung town­ship, Shan State.

Ac­cord­ing to an RCSS com­man­der, the Tat­madaw has re­leased a bar­rage of heavy ar­tillery that con­tin­ued as of yes­ter­day af­ter­noon.

“Un­til now, the fight­ing has not ceased. They are shoot­ing with heavy weapons from a po­si­tion on the hill above the Pang Poi vil­lage tract, where our troops are sta­tioned,” said the RCSS com­man­der, who asked that his name not be used. “Lo­cals do not dare to stay here any­more; they have fled to a safer area.”

Since the Na­tional League for Democ­racy launched its in­cip­i­ent peace process with the 21st-cen­tury Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence last month, sev­eral bat­tles have flared and old ten­sions reemerged, with fight­ing in Shan and Kachin states es­ca­lat­ing, and con­flict erupt­ing anew in Kayin State.

Ac­cord­ing to the RCSS com­man­der, the Tat­madaw en­tered Pang Poi, in RCSS-con­trolled ter­ri­tory, on Oc­to­ber 1. The Tat­madaw soldiers scoured a drug re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­tre jointly op­er­ated by the RCSS and a lo­cal CSO, and then opened fired on the RCSS, he said.

The fol­low­ing day, Oc­to­ber 2, 950 civil­ians fled to a nearby monastery. “By Oc­to­ber 3, the num­ber of IDPs grew to 2000 stay­ing at two monas­ter­ies in Mine Kaing town­ship,” said an of­fi­cer from the Shan Na­tion­al­i­ties League for Democ­racy in Taung­gyi who also asked to re­main un­named. “The SNLD is try­ing to sup­port the refugees by ask­ing for hu­man­i­tar­ian help from the Shan com­mu­nity.”

The RCSS com­man­der said that 20 vil­lages are si­t­u­ated in Pang Poi, Mine Kaing town­ship. The vil­lages have mostly emp­tied while the Kyaung Jan and Kyaung Hong monas­ter­ies are pro­vid­ing shel­ter to the IDPs, who re­main in need of food and other sup­plies.

The RCSS is one of just eight eth­nic armed groups to have signed the na­tion­wide cease­fire agree­ment with the pre­vi­ous govern­ment late in 2015. Since sign­ing the peace deal, the RCSS has clashed with the Tat­madaw on three oc­ca­sions, in­clud­ing once be­fore in Mine Kaing town­ship.

“This time is the worst case of fight­ing,” said the com­man­der. “The RCSS has al­ready been wel­comed to the peace ne­go­ti­a­tions, so there is no need for more mil­i­tary of­fen­sives. Only dis­cus­sions can solve our dif­fer­ences.”

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