Food, Medicine Urgently Needed for Myanmar Refugees Fleeing Regime Forces

By The Irrawaddy 19 May 2021

Newly-built camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) who have fled the mountain town of Mindat, Chin State, urgently need food and medicine. The number of IDPs is rising daily.

Beginning last Wednesday, a series of shootouts between junta troops and civilian fighters of Mindat’s Defense Force took place at Mindat over a period of several days.

On Saturday, the regime’s troops seized the town after bombarding it with artillery. Following the shootouts, junta soldiers continued to fire randomly throughout the town for days. Meanwhile, they destroyed houses and looted the belongings of Mindat residents.

Due to the shootouts, 90 percent of Mindat’s population of 25,000 fled their homes. In addition, others who had been trapped in the town are now leaving daily, according to local residents.

About 8,000 to 10,000 people have been sheltered in seven newly-built IDP camps in the forest, according to volunteers at the camps. Many other residents had fled to homes of their relatives in nearby villages in the township after hiding in the forest for days.

“We are unable to provide enough food for such an amount of IDPs. We have not enough food as road transports are blocked. So there are many IDPs who cannot have a regular meal,” said a volunteer of the camps.

He said the camps also need medicine for the IDPs to protect from illnesses such as cholera and malaria. They also need nutritional supplements for several infants and pregnant women.

Local residents told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that the town has been cut off from access to the water supply, though the random gunfire from junta soldiers in town has ceased.

Junta troops have also urged the remaining residents still left in the town to reopen their shops and markets, according to a member of Mindat’s People Administration.

On Tuesday night, a resident who had fled from Mindat died due to an underlying health condition after he had been unable to go to the hospital, according to local residents.

In addition, an 18-year-old boy who had been hiding in the forest died after falling from the mountain as the result of an epileptic seizure.

After learning that many of Mindat’s residents are sheltering in the temporary camps, Dr. Win Myat Aye, the minister of humanitarian affairs and disaster management of Myanmar’s civilian National Unity Government said on his Facebook page on Tuesday that the NUG is attempting to send humanitarian aid and food supplies to the refugees.

A 10-year-old girl who was seriously injured by the random shootings of junta soldiers in Mindat Monday. (Photo: CJ)

On Monday, a 10-year-old girl was seriously injured in Mindat after being shot in the neck while she was hiding in her house. She was hit by random gunfire from junta troops. The girl was not able to receive proper medical treatment for an entire day because of the presence of regime soldiers in the town. On Tuesday, she was sent to a hospital in Myingyan Township, Mandalay region after she was allowed by the junta troops to leave the town.

UNICEF in Myanmar has urged on Monday that all people, particularly children and young people, remaining in the area be allowed access to medical care and critical humanitarian services.

The shootouts between junta troops and civilian resistance fighters of Mindat’s Defense Force lasted for about five days.

During the battles, the military regime used heavy explosives, artillery, rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons, while reinforcements were flown into the town on helicopters.

In contrast, the Mindat civilian defense fighters were armed with old-fashioned, homemade hunting rifles.

During the shootouts, about nine civilian fighters were killed and about 20 were wounded.

Meanwhile, several junta soldiers were reportedly killed and at least about six military vehicles loaded with ammunitions and weapons were destroyed after being seized by civilian fighters.

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