As people around the world, including in Burma’s commercial heart Rangoon, marked the annual International Day of Peace on Monday, conflict continued in the country’s north, leaving scores of newly displaced villagers in its wake.
Fighting between government troops and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in Kachin State’s Mansi Township began on Friday and continued over the weekend, with over 180 villagers from Laika Zupja forced to flee their homes.
Local relief group, the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC), assisted the villagers in relocating to relief camps in nearby Mai Hkawng village in Mansi Township.
Rev. Hkalam Sam Sun, a spokesperson with KBC, told The Irrawaddy on Monday that the fighting was less than a mile from the displaced villagers’ current location.
“We worry about the villagers’ safety if the fighting continues. We have plans to send food assistance to Mai Hkawng,” he said.
Fighting continued on Monday morning, with Mai Hkawng villagers reporting the sound of artillery.
Since June 2011, when a 17-year ceasefire between the government and the KIA broke down, over 120,000 people in Kachin and northern Shan states have been displaced, forced to take shelter in IDP camps in both government- and rebel-controlled areas.
Hkalam Sam Sun told The Irrawaddy that some 200 villagers had also fled to the Chinese border after fighting between allied troops from the KIA and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and government soldiers in Muse Township’s Mong Paw in northern Shan State.
“Clashes have been frequent over the last few days and have caused people to flee,” Gen. Gun Maw, the KIA’s deputy chief-of-staff, told The Irrawaddy on Monday.
He said the KIA was helping IDPs to reach safe territory held by the armed group, but he could not confirm how many people were displaced due to the recent fighting.
In Shan State, Burma Army troops have recently engaged with TNLA soldiers in Kyaukme, Mongmit and Kutkai townships; with the RCSS in the Kho Lan area of Loilen district; and with the KIA in Pangsai, Muse Township.
Col. Sai La, spokesperson for the RCSS, told The Irrawaddy on Monday that despite informing the government’s chief peace negotiator Aung Min of recent fighting, tensions on the ground have failed to dissipate.
Last week, the Shan armed group released a statement calling on political parties campaigning ahead of Burma’s Nov. 8 general election to postpone their activities in over a dozen townships in Shan State until hostilities had ceased.
Representatives from both the TNLA and RCSS told The Irrawaddy that sporadic fighting was recurring due to government troops entering territory claimed by the respective ethnic armed groups.
The RCSS indicated last month that it intended to sign a long awaited nationwide ceasefire agreement that the government is desperate to formalize ahead of the country’s general election.
Sai La said the group maintained that view, but that “the offensives must stop for it to be a meaningful peace pact.”
Mai Phone Kyaw, spokesperson for the TNLA, said the Ta’ang group upheld its support for an all-inclusive pact.
The TNLA is one of three major ethnic armed groups that Burma’s government has shunned as an initial signatory to the ceasefire agreement.
Nang Seng Nom and Kyaw Kha contributed reporting.