As bridge blast dis­con­nects Muse, res­i­dents seek shel­ter and phone lines in China

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

Refugees from Myan­mar rest near a tem­po­rary shel­ter in Wand­ing, in China’s south­west Yun­nan prov­ince, yes­ter­day. Thousands of refugees have fled to China as fight­ing con­tin­ues across mul­ti­ple town­ships in north­ern Shan State 10 days af­ter an al­lied con­tin­gent of four eth­nic armed groups launched an of­fen­sive.

LO­CAL in­ter­net and phone con­nec­tions were dis­rupted in the town of Muse yes­ter­day af­ter an ex­plo­sion rocked the Swon­lon Bridge in Muse town­ship.

U Zaw Min, Muse dis­trict ad­min­is­tra­tor, said in­ter­net con­nec­tions were sev­ered en­tirely, while phone calls were not trans­mit­ting au­dio. An ac­quain­tance was able to send The Myan­mar Times an SMS mes­sage con­tain­ing his Chi­nese phone num­ber, which he spoke from yes­ter­day.

“There is no more in­ter­net con­nec­tion and phone lines are down af­ter a blast at the Swon­lon Bridge. It dam­aged the ca­ble line un­der­neath the bridge,” he said at about 12pm yes­ter­day.

U Zaw Min added, “For data trans­fer­ring, we have to use China lines. We hope to get it fixed soon.”

Con­tacted yes­ter­day evening, U Zaw Min said the telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions sit­u­a­tion had not changed.

The bridge ex­plo­sion took place at about 3am yes­ter­day, as fight­ing con­tin­ued across mul­ti­ple town­ships in north­ern Shan State 10 days af­ter an of­fen­sive by an al­lied con­tin­gent of four eth­nic armed groups on po­lice and mil­i­tary out­posts in Muse and Kutkai town­ships.

In ad­di­tion to Muse and Kutkai, clashes be­tween troops from the eth­nic armed groups, which have called their com­bined forces the North­ern Al­liance-Burma, and gov­ern­ment se­cu­rity per­son­nel have con­tin­ued in re­cent days in Namkham town­ship, Shan State, and Bhamaw/Bhamo town­ship, Kachin State.

“I have been us­ing a China line for a while,” said Sai Myat Aung of the Shan Cul­tural and Lit­er­a­ture Or­gan­i­sa­tion (Muse). “To­day, early morn­ing, the con­nec­tion was sud­denly down.”

“The clashes don’t seem eas­ily solv­able although we hope for the best so­lu­tion to calm down the sit­u­a­tion,” he added.

The Joint Strat­egy Team, a group of civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions in Kachin and north­ern Shan states, an­nounced this week that some 2000 civil­ians were pinned down be­tween the towns of Pang Sai and Mong Koe in a bor­der area known as Hai Kaung.

“On Novem­ber 27, we got in­for­ma­tion that 2000 peo­ple were trapped in the Hai Kaung area ... The num­ber is get­ting higher than 2000, ac­cord­ing to in­for­ma­tion we got to­day,” U Gum Sha Aung, sec­re­tary of the Joint Strat­egy Team, told The Myan­mar Times yes­ter­day. “They are trapped along the river [that forms the] China-Myan­mar bor­der.”

U Zaw Min con­firmed that civil­ians were trapped in a po­ten­tial con­flict zone, with fight­ing re­ported in the hills sur­round­ing the town of Mong Koe.

As of yes­ter­day, about 260 peo­ple re­mained shel­tered tem­po­rar­ily at monas­ter­ies in Muse town, ac­cord­ing to U Zaw Min, while peo­ple who fled across the bor­der into China in the wake of the ini­tial North­ern Al­liance of­fen­sive were re­turn­ing to Muse daily.

Pho­tos from AFP taken yes­ter­day show dis­placed civil­ians en­camped in lean-tos and shel­ter­ing un­der tarps at a makeshift refugee camp as­sem­bled in Wand­ing, China. Thousands have fled to tem­po­rary shel­ters along the bor­der.

A count yes­ter­day by the Muse dis­trict ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fice put the num­ber of fa­tal­i­ties due to the fight­ing at 17, with 57 peo­ple wounded.

The Kachin Peace Net­work on Novem­ber 29 called for “an im­me­di­ate ces­sa­tion of hos­til­i­ties”.

“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 long­stand­ing is­sues which are at the ori­gin of this con­flict,” the net­work said in a state­ment.

PHOTO: AFP

Photo: AFP

A refugee from Myan­mar rests in a tem­po­rary shel­ter in Wand­ing, in China’s Yun­nan prov­ince, yes­ter­day.

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