News

More Than 220 Flee Homes in Shan State

By Nan Lwin Hnin Pwint 19 June 2019

YANGON—Over 220 people from four villages in rural parts of Kutkai Township, in northern Shan State, have fled their homes following military tensions between the Tatmadaw (or Myanmar Army) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).

Locals say they fled after an exchange of fire broke out between the two sides and artillery shells fell near their villages early Sunday morning.

“They fled mainly because of artillery fire. We heard that [the Tatmadaw came] to occupy the TNLA outpost. As artillery shells were fired from Tarmoenye (an area within Kutkai Township), villagers fled out of fear,” Mai Mai, a local Kachin volunteer, told The Irrawaddy.

In all, 226 people—130 women and girls and 96 men and boys—are currently taking shelter at a Christian church in an urban part of Kutkai.

“The army troops are still in the villages, and there are also TNLA troops nearby, so war can break out at anytime,” said Seng Lum, who provides humanitarian assistance in Kutkai for the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC).

“Though the Bamar army said locals need not flee, the TNLA said the opposite, and locals have therefore fled,” he said.

Villagers shelter at a church in Kutkai. / The Irrawaddy

“They are still coming in. As men have to tend to crops and cattle, children and women have come first, and more men are still coming from there.”

Seng Lum said individuals and the church have donated food to the displaced.

Locals said the displaced came from villages under the control of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), and that the TNLA troops had arrived there just three months ago.

KIA spokesperson Colonel Naw Bu confirmed that the area is under the control of KIA Battalion 9.

“The TNLA is also active there and we are cooperating there. That area belongs to either the TNLA or the KIA,” he said.

He said that, besides the KIA and the TNLA, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) is also active in the area.

Col. Naw Bu said there are no ongoing clashes between the Myanmar Army and the KIA in Kutkai.

The Irrawaddy could not reach the TNLA or the Tatmadaw for comment.

Villagers shelter at a church in Kutkai. / The Irrawaddy

The KIA, the TNLA, the MNDAA and the Arakan Army (AA) have formed a military bloc known as the Northern Alliance.

The military declared a unilateral ceasefire that is effective through June 30 in areas covering the north and east of Myanmar, where all Northern Alliance members except for the AA are based.

The Northern Alliance and the government’s National Reconciliation and Peace Center have

agreed to meet and discuss bilateral ceasefire agreements, but negotiations have stalled as the Tatmadaw has refused to acknowledge the AA’s presence in its homeland of Rakhine State.

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