More Than 200 Civilians Flee Villages Amid Rising Tensions in Northern Shan State

By Lawi Weng 15 May 2017

RANGOON — More than 200 internally displaced persons (IDPs) including ethnic Shan and Palaung (Ta’ang) civilians have arrived in Namtu Township, northern Shan State, since last week, pressuring the town’s dwindling IDP camp food supplies, according to community leaders.

The new civilians fled Sai Kaung, Paung Ngu, Nat Myit Choung and Har Lin villages, said IDP camp leaders, after heightening tensions flared between the Burma Army, the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).

U Aung San Myint, a community leader of Namtu who helps settle and feed IDPs, said about 260 people have arrived since May 11; 30 Palaung and the rest Shan.

“There has been no fighting yet,” he said from Shwe Pyi Thar, a Buddhist monastery near Namtu where the Shan IDPs are staying. “But they are worried that there will be fighting soon, so they fled their villages.

“We managed to provide them with food that was donated to us. They have enough for only a few days.”

Myanmar Relief and Resettlement Department members gave each new IDP two longyis, a towel, a mosquito net, soap, and 2,500 kyats today, added U Aung San Myint.

More than 500 IDPs including Shan, Palaung, Kachin, and Lisu, stay in separate camps in Namtu, according to Sai Ba Nyan, the volunteer vice chairman of the IDP camps. He said they could only provide the town’s IDPs with rice and cooking oil.

“We gave the new IDPs food that was donated. We even asked for help from authorities and civil society groups,” he said.

Many of the IDPs fled their villages over the past few years, he added, and some look outside the camps for work, as they do not have enough food. Camp leaders said many IDPs rely on local donations for food.

The Burma Army, the RCSS, the TNLA, and the Shan State Progress Party (SSPP) are based in Namtu. Fighting often breaks out in the surrounding areas.

The Burma Army and the RCSS have reportedly stopped fighting, as the RCSS signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement. Most of the fighting occurs between the Burma Army and the TNLA, or the RCSS and the TNLA.