About 600 civilians are now sheltering in Namtu and Nawngcho townships after Shan State clashes between the Tatmadaw and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army forced some among the group to abandon their homes late last week.
“The old refugees haven’t had a chance to go back home. Now new IDPs [internally displaced persons] have left their places and belongings because of the clashes,” said U Mya Aung, a National League for Democracy politician in Namtu township.
About 400 IDPs have take up refuge at a monastery in Namtu, according to Sai Ba Nyan, an IDP camp leader and committee member of an organisation supporting the Namtu IDPs.
In Nawngcho township, almost 200 IDPs have been taken in, said Sai Mong, a member of the Shan Youth Organisation (Namtu). The IDPs are primarily from Manton township.
In addition to those displaced by fighting in recent weeks, nearly 300 villagers fled clashes in July and remain at the Namtu monastery, while others are staying at the homes of relatives, said Sai Ba Nyan.
Three people were injured by a bomb blast on November 30 and one victim, a 50-year-old woman, is still receiving treatment at Namtu Hospital, he added.
Locals in the conflict zone are war-weary and increasingly pessimistic about prospects for peace.
“To achieve peace in the area seems impossible. More IDPs and more fighting in the area is the reason it’s impossible,” Sai Ba Nyan said.
“In my opinion, the Tatmadaw has a responsibility to build peace,” U Mya Aung said of the clashes in northern Shan State. “They demand that the ethnic armed groups, such as the TNLA, the AA [Arakan Army] and the MNDAA [Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army] drop their weapons. If they have to drop their weapons, where is the dignity for the armed groups? For peacemaking discussions, all participants should get equality and a genuine offer for a peace dialogue.”
The latest fighting has pitted the Tatmadaw against four ethnic armed groups that have called themselves the Northern Alliance-Burma, which instigated the hostilities with an assault on several police and military outposts in Kutkai and Muse townships on November 20. The alliance, consisting of the TNLA, the AA, the MNDAA and the Kachin Independence Army, was due to meet with a government delegation on December 1, but those peace talks were cancelled.
“We want to meet as an alliance, all together. They want to meet [each group] separately. We have four member groups: the KIA, the TNLA, the MNDAA and the AA. But they didn’t count us as four - they just [recognised] three groups without counting the AA as an alliance member,” TNLA spokesperson Mong Aik Kyaw said, adding that the government’s insistence that the ethnic armed groups meet with its representatives separately was a strategic attempt to sow discord among the alliance.
According to a tally provided by the Information Committee of the State Counsellor’s Office and published in state media on December 1, 14 people have been killed and 50 injured since the fighting broke out on November 20.