Nearly 3,000 Displaced as Shan State Offensive Continues

By Lawi Weng 19 October 2015

RANGOON — Over 2,700 people have now fled their homes as clashes between the military and Shan State Army-North (SSA-N) resumed over the weekend, according to local civil society groups.

At least eight villages in Kyethi Township have been totally abandoned after a Burma Army artillery bombardment and gunfire in Kyethi and Mong Hsu townships, according to Sai Zu of the Shan Youth Network, who said that an additional 1,200 people had been displaced since a temporary cessation in hostilities last week.

“Wan Zau monastery has 1500 people, Hai Pa monastery has 1200 people, and Mongnawng has over 100 people,” he told The Irrawaddy, adding that many of those displaced were women and children. “They do not have enough food. There is no refugee camp here. It is very hard for them.”

Hla Shwe Thein, who is helping with relief efforts in Kyethi town, said he had heard that two elderly villagers had been left behind during the evacuation of the villages, including a 102-year-old man.

“This older man is blind. His family couldn’t carry him when they ran from the fighting, so the family left him at their home,” he said, adding that a paralyzed woman over the age of 90 had also been left at home by her family.

Over the course of half an hour on Sunday evening, Hla Shwe Thein said the Burma Army fired a massive artillery bombardment from a base in Mongnawng, directed at nearby villages. Another barrage took place early on Monday morning.

On Oct. 6, the Burma Army launched an assault on the SSA-N headquarters in Wan Hai village, Mong Hsu Township, in response to the ethnic armed group’s refusal to vacate its strategic river port base in Kyethi Township’s Tar San Pu village.

Last week, SSA-N spokesman Col. Sai Hla said the group’s forces made a tactical retreat from Tar San Pu in order to bring an end to the fighting.

Clashes appeared to come to a halt before the renewed Burma Army attacks on Sunday. Sai Hla told The Irrawaddy on Monday that the military had made an assault on an SSA-N post near the group’s Wan Hai base.

The SSA-N, the armed wing of the Shan State Progressive Party (SSPP), declined to participate in the “nationwide” ceasefire agreement, signed by the Burmese government and representatives of eight armed insurgent forces in Naypyidaw last Thursday.