Thousands Flee Fighting in Southeast Myanmar

By The Irrawaddy 11 March 2023

Fighting between the Myanmar military and Karenni resistance groups has forced around 3,000 villagers and 500 people already displaced to flee their homes and temporary shelters in southeast Myanmar’s Kayah State.

On Thursday, residents of three villages in the Daw Ta Ma Gyi village tract in the east of Kayah’s Demoso Township fled their homes as clashes continued between junta troops and a combined force of Karenni Army and Karenni Nationalities Defense Force fighters, according to the Karenni Human Rights Group (KnHRG).

“Regime troops set up an outpost on a hilltop near Daw Ngay Khu Village. Clashes also occurred near Daw Ta Ma Gyi village tract yesterday. Residents and displaced persons sheltering in Daw Ta Ma Gyi, Daw Ngay Khu and Daw So Hpya villages fled their homes,” said Ko Banya, a KnHRG spokesperson.

Clashes also reportedly took place on Thursday and Friday near San Pya 6 Mile, Nang Hu Htway and Daw Hse villages in Demoso township, with military regime soldiers launching artillery strikes, said locals.

“Fighting was ongoing for two days and they [regime troops] have been firing artillery continuously. It was almost impossible to count how many times they fired,” a displaced person said.

KnHRG spokesperson Ko Banya said that the refugees from the three villages in Demoso are currently sheltering under plastic sheets and tarpaulins.

“I saw that some displaced people have brought as much food and water as they can carry with them. My concern is about the shelters and supply of medicine. Some people don’t have proper shelters and are just camping under trees. Rain is forecast for the coming days and I am worried for them,” said Ko Banya.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Kayah State have fled their homes since fighting broke out in May 2021. Many are living in makeshift refugee camps.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said that there were at least 86,600 internally displaced persons (IDP) in Kayah as of February 13, 2023.

However, KnHRG said that the total number of refugees is likely much higher, as over 200,000 people have fled their homes since May 2021.

There are now around 225 IDP camps, with nearly 100,000 refugees in Demoso Township alone. Other Kayah residents have fled to southern Shan State, Karen State and Bago Region.