Burma Army Movements in Northern Shan State Create Hardships for Locals

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Locals and internally displaced persons (IDPs) have said that they are finding it difficult to work on their farms as Burmese military columns increasingly patrol areas of Kutkai Township in northern Shan State.

There are nearly 20 villages in the area in question, known as the Ner Chan area, as well as the Galan Zup Awng IDP camp. Burma Army soldiers are reportedly interrogating locals and searching homes, farms and paddy fields in the region. Locals say it discourages them from cultivating their crops and moving through the area.

“Local people depend on farming, working on their paddy fields and corn farms. Military columns are patrolling the area, so local people are afraid to go to work on their farms,” local Mer Naw told NMG. “Our corn plants are starting to grow on the farm. Local people and IDPs search for mushrooms in the jungle during the rainy season. They can earn small amount of income [from selling them]. Now they are afraid to go to search for mushrooms. They can not go to their rotating farms, either,” he explained.

The problem has been ongoing for three weeks, according to local sources.

The Burma Army and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) had clashes in the Ner Chan area in early June. Following the fighting, the Burma Army sent more troops into the area.

“I cannot go out of the camp due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Ah Yan, who lives in the Galan Zup Awng IDP camp, told NMG. “At the same time, we cannot go to work on the farms due to clashes—we are afraid to go out. So we are struggling for our daily survival.”

Galan Zup Awng IDP camp is located just two miles away from Ner Chan village. More than 300 IDPs in the camp are struggling to find enough to eat. Some have already left.

“They have sought refuge in a Shan village,” an IDP told NMG, of the people who have left the camp. “Shan villagers have provided food to these people. Even though they want to return to Zup Awng IDP camp, they can not return because Burmese soldiers are deployed near the camp.”

The Burma Army and KIA troops had clashes in the Ner Chan area from early June until June 17. While fighting was not occurring there at the time of reporting, locals say that the Burma Army still randomly shoots off guns in the area.

Col Naw Bu, who is in charge of the Kachin Independence Organization’s information department, confirmed the Burma Army’s increased militarization of the area, which has contributed to heightened tension.

“I think both forces need to control their ground forces at the moment. If one side starts military movements, clashes can occur at any time,” Col Naw Bu told NMG, pointing out that there is currently no ceasefire between the Burma Army and the KIA.

At least four military columns from the Burma Army are deployed in the Ner Chan area. Villagers told NMG that these soldiers are staying in a nearby ethnic Ta’ang village, and the community of Ton Kham, where five villagers were reportedly forced by the Burmese soldiers to work as porters.

The KIA clashed with the Burma Army in Muse, Namphetka, and Kutkai townships in early June.

Military tension also remains high between the Burma Army and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army and the ethnic Kokang Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army in northern Shan State.