More IDPs Flee Fighting in Northern Shan State amid Reports of Casualties

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Recent clashes between the Burma Army and an alliance of three ethnic armed groups in northern Shan State have left one person dead and several others injured, as hundreds more joined the growing ranks of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the region.

Maj. Mai Aik Kyaw, the information officer for the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), one of the three members of the ethnic alliance, reported a series of clashes in Hsenwi and Kutkai townships last Friday, while local sources said the fighting continued into the weekend.

“We had multiple clashes with the Burma Army yesterday [August 23]. The first was near Shu Khin Tha in Kutkai, which took place between 8am and 9am. The second occurred near Nam Huay Hill between 10 and 11 in the morning. The third was near Nam Khai Hill at around 2 o’clock in the afternoon. Then there was another clash near Kutkai, and one near Mang Loi in the evening,” Maj. Mai Aik Kyaw told NMG.

Civil society organizations (CSOs) operating in the area said the clashes on Friday killed one member of a government army-backed people’s militia force and injured at least three civilians. Around 350 inhabitants of a local village fled as the fighting intensified, they added.

The injured villagers were inhabitants of Loi Pel, a village in Kutkai Township that was hit by a mortar shell on Friday.

“The injured persons have already been transferred to the public hospital in Kutkai, where they are now receiving treatment,” said Hawng Dau, a spokesperson for the Humanitarian Strategic Team—Northern Shan State, a local CSO.

The injured were identified at Aye Kam, age 60; Aik Kyein, 32; and Aye Hkawng, 10. According to CSOs operating in the area, nearly 350 Loi Pel villagers arrived in Kutkai on Saturday morning to take shelter in monasteries in the town.

The fighting continued over the weekend, making travel in the area more difficult and raising fears that the ongoing conflict could further intensify.

“There were clashes this morning [August 24] at the Yaypu checkpoint between Lashio and Kutkai. Growing tensions have stopped all traffic on the highway, where both sides have deployed troops,” said Hawng Dau. “Villagers here are very afraid.”

There were also reports of clashes near Nam Phat Lun, a village located between Kutkai and Namphetka, on Saturday, and the sound of guns and heavy weapons being fired near the 105-mile trading zone.

The TNLA’s Maj. Mai Aik Kyaw confirmed the clash at the Yaypu checkpoint and added that there was another one near the Yae Khe Hill in Kutkai, but said he didn’t know of any fighting near Nam Phat Lun.

He also denied that the alliance was involved in clashes near the 105-mile trading zone. He said, however, that the Burma Army’s Light Infantry Division 99 had fired an artillery shell from the village of Long Kham that had landed in Nam Oum, a village near the trading zone.

There has been fighting all along the Mandalay-Muse national highway since the TNLA and its alliance partners, the Arakan Army and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, launched attacks on the Defense Services Technology Academy in Pyin Oo Lwin and Burma Army camps in northern Shan State on August 15.

The Burma Army has vowed to retaliate for the attacks, which represent a major escalation of the longstanding conflict in the country’s north. According to the alliance, the Burma Army has launched both ground and air strikes on ethnic armed forces in northern Shan State.