Nearly 200 Villagers Flee After Heavy Weapons Fired in Namkham

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Some 180 people sought refuge in the town of Namkham in northern Shan State after hearing the sound of gunshots and explosions outside of the town, which sits near the Burma-China border on Thursday.

Witnesses said that the fighting happened in Kawng Wyne village, as well as near the communities of Awae Law and Hsel Hai. Weapons were fired at around 10:00 a.m.

“Parents picked up their children from school. All of the villagers were afraid after hearing the sound of guns shooting. The teachers are still in school—the school is not really closed,” a Namkham local, told NMG.

Those who fled were from Kawng Wyne, and are staying in Kawng Thep ward in Namkham. They reported that shells had landed in their village.

“The Kawng Thep village headman and local youth are cooking rice for them. Some people are going to stay at their relatives’ houses, but some people are staying in a hall at the Kawng Thep monastery,” a volunteer in Namkham told NMG.

People already living in the Panglong internally displaced people’s (IDP) camp in Namkham also heard the fighting in the vicinity.

“It’s a little bit far from our camp, but we could hear the sound of guns shooting. They were shooting each other until nearly 12:00 noon. They opened fire with heavy weapons. The Burma Army’s military columns have had active movements in this area in recent days,” one Panglong camp resident said. “As an IDP, I am afraid of prices increasing on products for our basic needs. Prices increased in our area when clashes occurred in Kutkai and Lashio,” he explained, referring to two other northern Shan State townships where fighting has taken place.

Clashes have been occurring in northern Shan State since August 15 between the Burma Army and three members of the Northern Alliance of ethnic armed groups: the Arakan Army, Myanmar Democratic Alliance Army and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).

NMG reached out to the TNLA for comment, but received no response at the time of reporting.

According to the most recent information, there are more than 1,000 IDPs in Kutkai town, with community-based organizations and religious groups providing assistance to the displaced. Locals who are assisting the IDPs fear that if clashes continue, the number of people forced to live their homes will grow.