Number of New IDPs in Shan State Tops 6,000, Rights Group Says

By Nyein Nyein 3 November 2015

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — More than 6,000 people have been displaced by recent conflict between the Burmese government and ethnic rebels in eastern Burma’s Shan State, according to the Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF).

A new situation report published by the group on Tuesday details what SHRF calls an offensive by the Burma Army against the Shan State Progressive Party (SSPP) and its militant arm, the Shan State Army-North, that began on Oct. 6 and intensified over the past week.

Just less than a month since the conflict erupted, the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) has skyrocketed in temporary camps and monasteries, where thousands are being cut off from vital assistance, SHRF said.

“These displaced have had to abandon their homes and farms, and are in dire humanitarian need. 14 schools have been forced to close, with over 1,250 children unable to attend classes,” the report read.

Sai Kheun Mai, a spokesperson for SHRF, told The Irrawaddy that as of Sunday the Burma Army had blocked access to Hai Pa, one of the largest IDP camps in Monghsu Township sheltering some 1,300 civilians. Other IDPs have taken refuge in makeshift camps or monasteries in Mong Nawng and Kyethi townships.

“It has been four to five days since they fled from their homes to take shelter in Hai Pa,” he said. “They do not have enough medicine, and now it is raining in those areas.”

The report also said four villagers had been injured by “indiscriminate shelling and shooting” in recent weeks. One man was shot on Oct. 16 while returning home from his farmland, while three others were struck by shrapnel during artillery shelling in Mong Nawng, Wan Hai and Kyethi townships on Oct. 26 and 28, the report said.

Local relief groups have been struggling to attend to the growing number of IDPs, particularly in the area’s largest displacement camp, Wan Hsaw, where about 1,900 people are sheltering near the SSPP-SSA-N headquarters in Wan Hai.

According to SSPP spokesperson Maj. Sai La, Wan Hai has twice come under attack in the past week, on Oct. 29 and 30, and conflict has continued sporadically to date.

“We heard several rounds of gunfire from Kiu Mawk Khao [a nearby Burma Army base] to Mong Ark [near the Wan Hsaw IDP camp] at around 4am this morning,” the spokesman said, adding that the number of casualties is not yet known “as we are still fighting.”

Wan Hai is surrounded by one Burma Army battalion to its south and three to the north under the central command, Sai La said, which had been deployed in 2013.

Describing the attacks since early October as a “relentless military invasion” of which the effects are being felt mostly by innocent civilians, SHRF urged President Thein Sein to bring an immediate end to the conflict, and appealed to the international community to “publicly denounce Naypyidaw’s military aggression and withhold further support” for the peace process.

On Oct. 15, the Burmese government reached a multilateral ceasefire agreement with eight of the country’s more than 20 non-state armed groups, which was broadly welcomed by the international community despite falling short of the goal of a “nationwide” accord.

The SSPP was not among the signatories to the historic pact, and a bilateral agreement reached in 2012 has been violated more than 100 times, according to SHRF.