An upsurge in fighting between two ethnic armed groups in northern Shan State has displaced as many as 2500 villagers over the past week, while clashes in Rakhine State have added to the wave of IDPs in the west of Myanmar, according to aid workers.
Mong Myo Aung, general secretary of the Ta’ang Student and Youth Organisation, said yesterday that nearly 2500 IDPs had fled fighting in several places, including the townships of Namkham, Mong Ton, Hsipaw, Namsan and Kyaukme.
On the other side of Myanmar, United Nations workers said 300 more villagers had fled recent clashes between the Arakan Army, an ethnic armed group, and the Tatmadaw, bringing the total of IDPs from that conflict since last month to about 1400.
In northern Shan State, the Kyaukme township administrative office said it had registered 1037 IDPs since fighting between the Ta’ang National Liberation Army and the Restoration Council of Shan State flared again on May 1.
U Tin Maung Thein, chair of the Ziwitha Philanthropic Organisation in northern Shan, said government aid had not yet arrived but there was enough rice and oil for the short term in Kyaukme.
The two ethnic groups are accusing each other of torching civilian homes.
Tai Freedom, an online agency close to the RCSS, accused the TNLA of setting fire to 52 houses and a monastery in Ho Pan village, part of the Mong Wee area in Namkham township, on May 6.
The TNLA denied the accusation the next day. It said the RCSS had sent troops into that village and then government forces had opened fire with heavy weapons. The village was already burning when TNLA forces entered, the ethnic Ta’ang group said.
TNLA spokesperson Mai Aik Kyaw said both sides had suffered casualties, but he gave no details. The group reported eight clashes with the RCSS on May 5.
Tai Freedom also accused two other ethnic armed groups, which it did not name, of supporting the TNLA in its offensives.
Mong Myo Aung told The Myanmar Times that it was not clear who had destroyed the houses but he urged all armed groups to stop harming civilians.
Locals are getting desperate about their isolation in an increasingly complex conflict.
“Who should they rely on?” asked Sai Aung Myint Oo, executive member of the Shan Youth Network in Yangon. “Which groups will protect them? Government, party members, MPs? We have not seen any moves by them.”