Over 170,000 People Displaced by Clashes in Myanmar’s Kayah State

By The Irrawaddy 25 January 2022

More than 170,000 people have been displaced by the fighting in Kayah State, with clashes taking place almost daily in Loikaw and Demoso townships, according to the Karenni Human Rights Group, which is helping the displaced people.

Some 120,000 of them are still in Kayah State, taking shelter at religious buildings and fleeing into forests after they were forced from their homes by junta raids, airstrikes and shelling. The largest displacement took place in Demoso.

Meanwhile, some 30,000 people have fled to southern Shan State, some 10,000 have crossed the border into Thailand’s Mae Hong Son Province and some 500 have fled to cities like Yangon and Mandalay.

“More than 170,000 people have been displaced in Kayah since last year, according to statistics updated on Jan. 18. In Loikaw, some 60,000 people were newly displaced this month. More people are being displaced as clashes continue in Kayah State,” said an official of the Karenni Human Rights Group.

Displaced people are seen outside their makeshift shelters in a forest in Kayah. / Karenni Assistance Network for IDPs

Almost all the residents from 12 of 15 wards in Loikaw have fled the fighting, and Hpruso is also deserted, he added.

“Loikaw has an urban population of more than 150,000 people in 15 urban wards. Only three of the wards are still inhabited now. Only a few people are left in 12 other wards to take care of their houses. Hpruso is also almost deserted,” he added.

Some 650 buildings including houses, Christian churches, monasteries and schools have been burned in the fighting since May 2021, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) in Myanmar.

Fierce clashes broke out between resistance groups and junta troops in Loikaw, the capital of Kayah State, on Jan. 7. The military regime has carried out airstrikes on the town since the following day.

A Loikaw resident said: “We have fled to central Myanmar. At first, I let my family members flee and I stayed at home to take care of it. But, the regime dropped bombs on the town and shot on sight. So, I dare not stay at home and I can’t worry about the risk of a break-in. All the other residents from my ward have also fled.”

Demoso has also experienced junta air raids and shelling, and almost the entire town was damaged with locals taking shelter in forests.

Humanitarian groups are finding it difficult to send food and other relief aid to displaced people due to ongoing clashes in the state.

At least 35 civilians, including women and a child, were killed and burned in vehicles by junta soldiers near Moso Village in Hpruso Township in December. Two staff members of the international humanitarian aid group Save the Children were among the 35 victims.

Displaced people are seen outside their makeshift shelters in a forest in Kayah. / Karenni Assistance Network for IDPs

UNOCHA Myanmar said in a recent statement that international humanitarian agencies are still working together with local partners to provide emergency relief aid to the affected persons despite logistical difficulties and tightened inspections on the road.

The Karenni Human Rights Group however said provision of relief supplies from humanitarian agencies including the UNHCR, International Committee of the Red Cross and World Food Programme has been halted in Kayah.

Clashes have been taking place in Kayah State daily, mostly in Loikaw and Demoso, between local resistance groups and junta troops.

On Jan. 16, the regime bombed a displacement camp from the air in Hpruso as well as Demoso, killing three civilians including a 7-year-old girl and three health workers, according to the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force, an armed group resisting the military junta.

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