Clashes in Northern Shan State Uproot Thousands

By Yen Saning 15 February 2016

RANGOON — Recent fighting between the Shan State Army-South (SSA-S) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) in northern Shan State has displaced over 2,000 civilians in Kyaukme Township, according to a local member of the National League for Democracy.

Htay Win said a local committee had been established to provide assistance for almost 2,700 residents from 24 villages who have fled their homes since renewed fighting between the two ethnic armed groups flared earlier this month.

The committee has been providing accommodation and food supplies for uprooted villagers from Shan and Palaung communities, with donations from locals.

“We don’t know how long the conflict will last, so we don’t know how long we will need to take care of them [displaced villagers],” Htay Lwin said. “The local [township] administration has also been providing a lot of support, including taking care of arranging accommodation for people.”

Displaced civilians, including from Tauk San, a small village around 35 miles outside Kyaukme, are reportedly sheltering in some 16 monasteries in Kyaukme Township.

“Villagers from nearby Tauk San have fled their homes because they are scared of fighting nearby,” said Htay Lwin. “Villages were being set on fire and news of a murder spread. Locals dare not stay in their villages. We have to take care of them until they’re able to leave.”

Fighting between the Shan and Ta’ang armed groups has been reported on successive days since Feb. 7 across three townships in northern Shan State—Namkham, Namhsan and Kyaukme. Both sides have accused the other of being at fault.

Local media reports suggest hundreds more displaced villagers are seeking shelter in Namkham Township.

The SSA-S was among eight armed groups that signed the so-called nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) with the government in mid-October. The TNLA by contrast was not recognized by the government and excluded from the negotiations.