More Than 1,000 Flee Latest Fighting Between Rival Armed Groups in Shan State

By Lei Lei 14 February 2019

KYAUKMAE, Shan State — More than 1,000 residents of northern Shan State’s Kyaukme Township fled their homes between Saturday and Tuesday to escape fighting between two rival armed groups, the Shan State Progress Party (SSPP) and Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS).

The families, mostly ethnic Bamar and Ta’ang, fled three villages and are taking shelter at monasteries in the urban center of the township. Most are women and children, as many of the men stayed behind to guard their properties.

“Because I fled my village in a hurry, I could not bring any belongings with me. I grow corn and paddy and I left behind my corn harvest and also my buffalos,” said Ma Nan Hla Han, from Pan Lawk Village.

The families said there had been no fighting near their villages before.

Ko Thar Zaw, a Kyaukme resident assisting the families, said people continued to flee Lwei Sa Village on Wednesday.

“Only one-fourth of the people who have fled here are men; the rest are women and children,” he said.

“I don’t want to see fighting. I want to live a peaceful life. I am not afraid of soldiers, but I am afraid of guns,” said Daw Khin Mar Swe, the headmistress of Nanpyin Village.

The Myanmar Red Cross Society, the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, non-governmental organizations and regional lawmakers have distributed relief supplies to the families, but many still do not have enough food.

“We want peace. The places that are suffering [from fighting] want peace the most. Because there is no peace, people are struggling just to survive, not to mention to secure their livelihoods,” said U Tin Maung Oo, a trustee of a community-based committee that helps displaced people in Kyaukme.

While the RCSS is a signatory to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, the SSPP is not.

The two armed groups have clashed repeatedly in Hsipaw, Kyaukme and Namtu townships in northern Shan State since November 2015. The Ta’ang National Liberation Army, another armed group, is backing the SSPP.

According to the groups themselves, the RCSS and TNLA fought about 40 battles in 2018 alone.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.