Pa-O Villagers Seek Refuge in Wa Zone

By Nyein Nyein 7 January 2019

Nearly 500 Pa-O refugees from villages of Mong Pan Township are taking shelter in the area controlled by the United Wa State Army (UWSA) east of the Salween River in southern Shan State following threats allegedly made by Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) soldiers against local civilians.

Villagers are leaving their homes in search of safety and the Wa-controlled area, about 111 kilometers (69 miles) from Mong Pan, is the nearest place where they can find it, according to Nang Yin Yin Soe, the member of the Pa-O National Liberation Organization (PNLO)’s information department.

The PNLO publically denounced the RCSS’s actions on Friday, when they said at least 300 Pa-O villagers from three villages—Naung Cho, Mai Poke and Pan Pi—of Nar Mon village tract in Mong Pan Township were fleeing towards the eastern side of the Salween River, following threats the RCSS made against them.

“RCSS troops summoned villagers to the monastery in nearby Pang Mi village on Dec. 31 and threatened to burn down their villages if anyone helps either the Pa-O group (PNLO) or the Tatmadaw (Myanmar Army),” said Nang Yin Yin Soe. She said the locals have been experiencing such threats for a long time.

One of the villages, Pan Pi, suffered a huge monastery fire in November which killed two novice monks and was allegedly followed by similar threats from the RCSS against the locals.

The United Wa State Army (UWSA) area is known as No.171 Military Region and the group said they have been taking care of the displaced Pa-O people since the last week of December.

U Nyi Rang, the UWSA’s liaison officer in Lashio said residents of the conflict-affected villages of Mong Pan have been coming to the Wa area continuously with a higher number over the last two days. His group has been providing humanitarian assistance to some 500 families so far which includes children, women and elders, he said.

“We provide food and shelter for them. Our soldiers and the villagers of Pin Sa in Khaik Lon Township are helping the IDPs to build temporary shelters,” said U Nyi Rang. He said the UWSA urges the groups (RCSS and PNLO) to find a way to negotiate and solve the military conflicts.

Armed conflict between the RCSS and the PNLO, both the signatories of the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA), began in November last year and escalated in December when a number of Pa-O villagers were shot dead by RCSS soldiers which spurred another murder.