Govt: 10,000 Displaced Residents Return to Mong Ko

By Saw Yan Naing 26 December 2016

The government reported that more than 10,000 residents displaced by fighting in northern Shan State have returned to Mong Ko town of Muse Township, despite claims from aid groups that residents are reluctant to return to the area.

“Altogether 10,248 residents from 2,260 households have been admitted into the town so far,” state-run newspaper The Global New Light of Myanmar reported Sunday.

“Yesterday [Saturday] morning, a total of 14 people, including ten males and four females, were admitted to the town,” the report read, adding that residents have been returning since Dec. 9—aided by the military—after fleeing fighting between the Burma Army and an alliance of four ethnic armed groups.

Mai Mai, a humanitarian worker from the Kachin Youth Organization in Kutkai Township in northern Shan State, said that most displaced residents haven’t returned home permanently as they feel it unsafe to do so.

“Local administration authorities call on [displaced people] to return home and say it is safe for them to do so,” said Mai Mai.  “Some returned but found there were break-ins, motorcycles were stolen, and houses were destroyed.”

“Some return only in the daytime but go to sleep in the camp [on the China border] at nighttime,” she added.

According to a report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Burma released on Dec. 20, up to 15,000 people may have fled across the border into China in the past month while another 2,400 people had been displaced internally in northern Shan State.

Despite government claims that they restored stability in Mong Ko town, there are reports of ongoing fighting in and around Mong Ko and Kutkai towns.

Burma Army shells landed on a house in Kutkai town on Dec. 24 injuring five civilians and four children, according to local residents.

State media, however, blamed the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and said the five civilians were injured as KIA troops fired on vehicles traveling on the Union Highway in Kutkai Township on Saturday last week.

State media also reported that a Burma Army soldier was injured during clashes with the ethnic armed group alliance in Kutkai on Friday.

The joint force—known as the Northern Alliance—combines troops of the KIA, Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), the Arakan Army (AA), and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) better known as Kokang army.

The Northern Alliance launched a joint offensive against the Burma Army in northern Shan State in late November. None of the groups have signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement with the government.