Myanmar’s Army Refuses Shan IDPs Access to Village Amid Ongoing Clashes

By Lawi Weng 5 March 2020

Ethnic Shan internally displaced people (IDPs) were blocked from returning to their homes because the Tatmadaw (military) said it was not safe, according to Shan State sources.

About 300 ethnic Shan IDPs in Keysi and Mong Kai fled Koong Nyawng Hpahsa village when fighting broke out on Feb. 27 between the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) and Myanmar’s army.

Some Shan lawmakers and community leaders made the trip along with the Shan IDPs yesterday (Wednesday) to Koong Nyawng Hpahsa village in Mong Kai. Villagers wanted to check their homes as they were worried about their possessions being stolen.

Sai Sam Murng, a regional lawmaker for Keysi, who traveled along with the IDPs, told The Irrawaddy today (Thursday) that Myanmar’s army told the IDPs to turn back as there was still some fighting in the area.

“[The army] stopped our truck of IDPs and asked us where we were going. We told them that some IDPs wanted to go back to their homes. But they told us we could not go to the village,” he said.

Sai Sam Murng asked to speak to the commander who repeated the message by phone.

“I told him that IDPs could not bring food when they ran away from their village. So they wanted to bring food from the village to eat in their camp.”

He said the commander replied: “Bro, do you not know that [the RCSS] attacked us? They still come sometimes to ambush us.

“The situation is still unstable but it will get better soon. I will contact you when the situation improves,” Sai Sam Murng quoted the commander saying.

The villagers were forced to turn around.

Fighting broke out on a hill in Loi Twan where the RCSS accused Myanmar’s army of attacking its base. Fighting continued until March 3 in Mong Kai, according to the Tai Freedom news outlet, which said Myanmar’s army attacked several RCSS bases in Mong Kai.

Major Kham San, the spokesman for the RCSS, told The Irrawaddy today that Myanmar’s troops were still active around Koong Nyawng Hpahsa so it was difficult to guarantee the villages’ safety.

“Military tension has eased, but [Myanmar’s army] has not withdrawn its troops from the area yet. It is difficult to say the area is secure,” he said.

He denied that the RCSS, a National Ceasefire Agreement signatory, had ambushed Myanmar’s army in the area.

But if Myanmar’s forces did not leave the area and continued to search RCSS bases, fighting would continue, Major Kham San said.

“We have withdrawn from our base on the hill in Loi Twan to stop fighting with Tatmadaw. But if they continue to seek our other bases, fighting will continue to break out. Therefore, the situation depends on the Tatmadaw,” he said.

The 300 IDPs sheltering at Buddhist monasteries in Keysi and Mong Kai did not have enough food and were dependent on donations, according to Sai Sam Murng.

“The Mitta Foundation would come to donate food today to IDPs. We were waiting for their cars,” he said.

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