Fleeing Shan State Conflict, 400 Villagers Take Refuge in Namtu Town

By Lawi Weng 1 December 2016

LASHIO, Shan State — About 400 internally displaced people (IDPs) have fled their homes in Namtu and Mongton townships and taken shelter in Namtu town, according to local sources, following the latest clashes between the Burma Army and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) in northern Shan State.

“Yesterday, 177 people arrived. They were from Nam Hai village in Mongton township,” said Nang San Hown, a lawmaker from the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) in Namtu Township.

Last week, between Nov. 24-26, Nang San Hown counted another 196 IDPs arriving in Namtu town.  Those people were fleeing the conflict in Mong Tat, Mong Zin, Nar La, and Pang War villages, in Namtu and Mongton townships.

Since Nov. 20, a coalition of four ethnic armed groups has carried out a military offensive against the Burma Army in northern Shan State. The ethnic armed groups include the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the Arakan Army (AA), and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA).

The State Counselor’s Office has reported 14 people killed and 50 wounded in attacks by ethnic armed groups since the start of the conflict. Thousands more civilians have been displaced within Shan State or fled across the border into China’s Yunnan province.

In Namtu town, some of the nearly 400 IDPs are living in a monastery, churches, and religious buildings while they wait out the conflict.

“There were six wounded people in the group that arrived on Nov. 26. Four of the wounded were men, and two were women,” said Nang San Hown.

“The local Namtu people donated food for the IDPs when they arrived the first day. But these donations have not been enough to feed everyone,” said the lawmaker. “For shelter, the local people have also donated bamboo to construct small sleeping huts. That’s all we could do. We are unable to provide all of them proper buildings for living in.”

The Shan State government and the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement also are helping to provide food and shelter, she said.

There have been numerous clashes in Namtu and Mongton townships over the past week.

On Nov. 23, the TNLA attacked and seized some army positions from the Shan State Army­South (SSA­S). Shortly afterward, the Burma Army launched its own offensive against the TNLA and tried to recapture those bases that were lost by the SSA-S, according to a statement from the TNLA News and Information Department.

Days later, on Nov. 26, a battle erupted at Pang War village, lasting at least five hours. In that instance, the TNLA accused the Burma Army of firing artillery shells into civilian areas. Villagers reported being afraid and running away from their homes, according to the TNLA News and Information Department.

On Nov. 29, more clashes broke out at Khong Mong and Khong Nyaung villages in Mongton Township. Fighting restarted in Mongton on Thursday morning.