Northern Shan State CSOs Call For Protection of Civilians in Conflict Zones

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Civil society organizations (CSOs) based in northern Shan State have called on actors in the region’s armed conflict to refrain from targeting local communities.

“We especially want to demand that armed groups not attack civilians. Another thing is that all armed groups need to seek a way to start negotiations for the halt of the war as soon as possible. We have been demanding these things,” Mai Mai, who lives in Kutkai, told NMG. “They frequently clash on civilian roads. Villagers are often hit when heavy weapons are fired,” she added.

Clashes between the Burma Army and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) have broken out in many locations in northern Shan State, including Kyaukme, Lashio, Kutkai, Hsipaw, Namhsan and Namkham townships. Shells have landed in villages, damaging homes and causing locals to flee. There have also been civilian casualties.

The CSOs have demanded that locals who have been detained during clashes also be released. According to the Ta’ang Women’s Organization, at least 20 people have been arrested thus far. Some have disappeared, with no updates on their whereabouts.

Burma Army soldiers in civilian clothes arrested two young people near the Asia World tollgate earlier in November as they returned from Kutkai. According to TWO, they are still in military detention and their families have not been able to see them.

“These youth are not connected with armed groups. They are just civilians. They were arrested when they were traveling,” Lway Chee Sangar, a spokesperson for TWO, told NMG, adding that this action proved civilians were being targeted in the conflict.

Peace talks have not brought an end to the fighting.

“They have stronger clashes when they hold a meeting for peace talks,” Mai Mai said. The Burmese authorities, she added, “should not ignore the demands of ethnic people. I think peace would be restored in our country if they implemented the demands of ethnic people. We expect that.”

Intensified clashes between the Burma Army and the TNLA between November 1 and 17 prompted CSOs to call on both the army and the ethnic armed organization to try to resolve the conflict through negotiation and dialogue.