2000 IDPs trapped amid Shan State fight­ing

Vil­lagers from Hai Kaung have found them­selves stuck in a field, un­able to reach China or the refuge ar­eas in Muse, as fight­ing con­tin­ued yes­ter­day in at least five dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions.

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - THU THU AUNG thuthuaung@mm­times.com

ON­GO­ING hos­til­i­ties be­tween the Tat­madaw and four eth­nic armed groups in north­ern Shan State have left about 2000 peo­ple trapped in the Hai Kaung area, near the Sino-Myan­mar bor­der be­tween the towns of Pang Sai and Mong Koe.

“About 2000 IDPs [in­ter­nally dis­placed per­sons] are trapped in a paddy plot along­side the river that di­vides China and Myan­mar, ac­cord­ing to the in­for­ma­tion our staff re­ceived. They left their vil­lage be­cause of the clashes,” said U Gum Sha Aung, sec­re­tary of a group of nine civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions in Kachin and north­ern Shan states known as the Joint Strat­egy Team.

Colonel Mong Aik Kyaw, a spokesper­son for the four eth­nic armed groups call­ing them­selves the North­ern Al­liance-Burma, said fight­ing con­tin­ued yes­ter­day, with clashes in at least five dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions in­clud­ing Mong Koe, Pang Sai and the 105 Mile bor­der trade zone, where the al­liance launched an ini­tial of­fen­sive on Novem­ber 20.

The four groups in­volved in the at­tack were the Ta’ang Na­tional Lib­er­a­tion Army, the Kachin In­de­pen­dence Army, the Myan­mar Na­tional Demo­cratic Al­liance Army and the Arakan Army.

Sai Loon Nao, sec­re­tary of the Shan Youth Or­gan­i­sa­tion (Muse), said he too had heard word of trapped vil­lagers along the bor­der.

“That news is spread­ing among the lo­cals. The trapped vil­lagers at Hai Kaung, they can’t en­ter the China side and can’t cross the Pang Sai-Mong Koe [road], where clashes have hap­pened re­cently,” he said.

U Gum Sha Aung said the af­fected civil­ians have been left vul­ner­a­ble, in need of food and shel­ter.

“We are try­ing to con­tact and sup­port them or get them out,” he said.

Col Mong Aik Kyaw said he did not know whether a group of civil­ians had been pinned down in the fight­ing, but added, “We al­ways let the vil­lagers out when we get a chance. Never are they kept in con­flict zones.”

Muse district ad­min­is­tra­tor U Kyaw Kyaw Tun said his of­fice was also un­able to con­firm that vil­lagers had been trapped.

“The IDPs from Muse town have gone back to their vil­lages be­cause the clashes’ in­ten­sity is down,” he said.

Another Muse district ad­min­is­tra­tor, U Zaw Min, said a lo­cal tally of ca­su­al­ties put the num­ber of civil­ian and gov­ern­ment se­cu­rity per­son­nel fa­tal­i­ties at 16, with 50 peo­ple in­jured.

About 750 IDPs re­main shel­tered tem­po­rar­ily at monas­ter­ies in Muse town, and about 3500 peo­ple are be­lieved to have taken refuge across the bor­der in China, which has put its mil­i­tary on high alert.

“The Tat­madaw is re­in­forc­ing its mil­i­tary strength and the Chi­nese mil­i­tary is also drilling along its side of the bor­der,” Sai Loon Nao said. “The fight­ing is go­ing to con­tinue al­though the sit­u­a­tion is calm in town.”

Fol­low­ing a “2+2” meet­ing of mem­bers of the min­istries of for­eign af­fairs and de­fence with their Chi­nese coun­ter­parts on Novem­ber 25 in Nay Pyi Taw, the two sides re­leased a joint state­ment ad­dress­ing the re­cent uptick in con­flict along the bor­der.

“Both sides ex­pressed their de­sire for the preva­lence of rule of law and se­cu­rity along Myan­mar-China bor­ders, and the Chi­nese side ex­pressed its hope for speedy so­lu­tion of cur­rent ten­sion in the north­ern part of Myan­mar and to re­store nor­malcy in the bor­der ar­eas as early as pos­si­ble,” it read.

The Joint Strat­egy Team has urged all “war­ring par­ties to fully re­spect in­ter­na­tional hu­man­i­tar­ian law, which pro­vides spe­cific mea­sures to pro­tect civil­ians in armed con­flicts”.

The team con­tin­ued, “An im­me­di­ate ces­sa­tion of hos­til­i­ties must take place. A peace­ful so­lu­tion to the con­flicts in Myan­mar is a crit­i­cal pri­or­ity for the fu­ture of the coun­try and its peo­ple. This should be based in open po­lit­i­cal di­a­logues that ad­dress the long-stand­ing is­sues which are at the ori­gin of this con­flict.”

The North­ern Al­liance has said its ini­tial of­fen­sive was “in­evitable” in the face of months-long ag­gres­sion from the Tat­madaw in ter­ri­to­ries held by the groups in north­ern Shan and Kachin states.

A re­sponse to the Novem­ber 20 as­sault and its af­ter­math from the Union-level gov­ern­ment came on Novem­ber 23, in the form of a state­ment from Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in her ca­pac­ity as chair of the Na­tional Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and Peace Cen­tre.

“At a time when peo­ple of Myan­mar are in process of striv­ing for na­tional rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and peace that had re­mained elu­sive to them, it is ex­tremely dis­ap­point­ing and sad­den­ing that these in­ci­dents are in­sti­gated,” read her state­ment.

“The con­flict will not end if the Tat­madaw thinks to solve things by mil­i­tar­ily re­in­forc­ing,” said Gen­eral Tar Gyoke Ja, vice chair of the Ta’ang Na­tional Lib­er­a­tion Army. “We want a fed­eral Union. We want peace. The Tat­madaw is block­ing our way to the peace ta­ble.”

He added, “We hope that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the gov­ern­ment will work it out one way or another. But they didn’t speak out a word for the [pre­vi­ous Tat­madaw] of­fen­sives in the area of Kachin and Shan states. We made an at­tack op­er­a­tions in or­der to change the war front. Peace ne­go­ti­a­tions are the an­swer to all con­flict and clashes.”

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