Myanmar Military Evacuates Foreigners Trapped by Clashes in Kutkai

By Htet Naing Zaw 22 August 2019

NAYPYITAW—Dozens of foreigners who had been trapped by fighting between the Myanmar military and rebel groups in northern Shan State’s Kutkai Township arrived in Yangon by air on Thursday afternoon.

The Myanmar military airlifted 28 foreigners by helicopter from Kutkai to Lashio, from where they were transported to Yangon aboard military planes.

“There were 28 foreigners stuck in Kutkai. We arranged to bring them from Kutkai to Lashio by military helicopter. And we will transport them from Lashio to Yangon by military plane. The plane will land at Mingaladon Airport,” military spokesperson Brigadier-General Zaw Min Tun told The Irrawaddy prior to the evacuees’ arrival in Yangon.

The rescued foreigners comprised nine from the US, one from Canada, two from Hong Kong and two from Taiwan, with the rest coming from China, he said.

Shan State police chief Police Brigadier-General Zaw Khin Aung promised adequate protection for foreigners stuck in the state.

“I learned that [additional] US citizens are teaching local children in Kutkai. And two Bangladeshi nationals working for [telecom operator] Ooredoo have also gone back by road. We sent them [the Bangladeshis] in a convoy to Lashio,” Pol. Brig-Gen Zaw Khin Aung said.

“For the time being, we are only making arrangements for those stuck around Kutkai, as stability has not been restored there. Those stuck in Lashio and Hsipaw have returned [to Yangon] by themselves,” he added.

Dozens of foreign travelers were left stranded in northern Shan State, one of Myanmar’s major tourist destinations, when roads became blocked following the eruption of clashes between the Myanmar military and rebel fighters on Aug. 15.

Over 50 tourists stuck in Hsipaw had to return to Mandalay and Yangon by train, as road transport services were halted due to security concerns.

The Union of Myanmar Travel Association and the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism are working together to provide assistance for foreign travelers currently in Shan State.

The Irrawaddy was not unable to contact officials at the Hotels and Tourism Ministry to get more information on its plans to help foreign tourists in Shan State.

Tour operators are concerned that instability in popular tourist spots in Shan State will negatively impact the tourism industry at large.

Myanmar’s border trade with China has ground to a halt due to clashes along the border trade route.