More Than 70,000 People Displaced as Fighting Rages in Eastern Myanmar

By The Irrawaddy 26 May 2021

Civilian resistance fighters in eastern Myanmar’s Kayah State seized and destroyed a police security checkpoint north of Loikaw, the Kayah capital, on Wednesday morning.

The Karenni People’s Defense Force (KPDF) burned the captured outpost in Htee Se Khar in Loilen Lay town, 15 miles north of Loikaw and close to the border with Shan State, according to a member of the KPDF.

A police outpost in Htee Se Khar in Loilen Lay town, Loikaw was burned down after the Karenni People’s Defense Force seized it on May 26. / Progressive Karenni People Force

The attack comes as military tensions rise in Kayah and security has been tightened in downtown Loikaw, with junta forces checking the cell phones of residents. Many people are staying in their houses, while workers from other areas of the country are returning to their hometowns.

Fighting between regime soldiers and the KPDF broke out on May 21 and over forty junta troops, including police, have since been killed. The KPDF has attacked and destroyed police stations in Kayah State’s Demoso Township and Shan State’s Pekon Township and Moebyel Town. Regime forces have fired artillery into community quarters and villages following the shootouts with the KPDF.

Clashes continued in Demoso Township at dawn on Wednesday. A KPDF member said a woman was killed by junta forces gunfire, while another man was seriously injured.

Five KPDF members were confirmed killed after heavy fighting near the Ngwe Taung Dam in Demoso Township on Tuesday.

“During the May 25 fighting, we lost five of our men. We also heard there were many casualties from the junta side. However, we can only confirm seeing five dead regime soldiers,” said the KPDF member on Wednesday.

Displaced People

Some 70,000 residents from around 150 villages in Demoso, Loikaw and Shan State’s Pekon Township have been displaced in the five days of fighting since Friday, according to relief workers.

In Pekon and Moebyel Town, over 20,000 people have been displaced, while more than 50,000 are displaced in Kayah State, including 10,000 in Demoso and 6,000 in Nam Mae Khon, according to Pekon, Loikaw and Demoso residents.

Villagers in Kayah State’s Demoso Township fled from their homes on May 22 and are displaced in the hills. / CJ

One relief worker said the villagers have fled into the hills, while town residents are sheltering at monasteries, churches and in elders homes. “We need shelters in the rural areas with the rainy season beginning. The elders and children also need medicine,” he said.

Another relief worker in Pekon said the town residents and people from nearby villages have fled their homes. The displaced villagers are taking temporary shelter at five different places, as well as scattering across Pekon and Moebyel to stay with relatives. He added that they are in need of emergency help, as the basic food items the villagers brought with them will run out after a week if the fighting continues.

A spokesman of the management committee for the internally displaced people (IDP) in Pikin Kaw Khu, a village near the Kayah-Shan border, said that there are about 1,500 people who fled from Pekin Kaw Khu and Hawyi Kaw Khu villages. They have brought some food with them, but if they are going to be displaced for a long time, people will need rice, medicine and shelter from the elements.

Villagers in Kayah State’s Demoso Township fled from their homes on May 22 and are displaced in the hills. / CJ

“We opened an IDP camp in Pekin Kaw Khu. But after artillery fire landed in the camp, we now have to go to another place,” he said.

One villager from Kone Thar village said that more than 2,000 people have fled alongside him. “We have rice, but not enough for a long time. We need shelters, clean water and medicine,” said the villager.

Relief workers, camp management leaders and locals who The Irrawaddy contacted urged the junta forces not to fire at civilians and the IDP camps.

The relief worker from Pekon added, “There is no guaranteed safe place for the IDPs, because the junta forces even fire at the churches where people are sheltering and white flags are flying.”

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