As rebel groups clash, the number of displaced people rises in Shan State

Refugees from Kyaukme are welcomed by the Aung Su Pan, Shwe Kyin and Namt Sitlynn Buddhist monasteries after their villages come under rebel occupation. Food shortages are however a problem and refugee pupils are unable to continue their education.

Naypyidaw (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Fighting broke out between rebel factions forcing about a thousand people to flee their villages in the Kyaukme area, northern Shan State, local officials reported.

Soldiers of the Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and its ally, the Shan State Progress Party (SSPP), have clashed with forces of the Restoration Council of Shan State (Rcss).

Most refugees are from the villages of Namt Pyan, Pan Lawt, Napon-Napyain and Lwal Sar, this according to the Refugee Support Committee in Kyaukme.

A total of 307 displaced people found shelter at the Aung Su Pan monastery, 677 at Shwe Kyin monastery and 32 at Namt Sitlynn monastery

“We fled on Saturday night to avoid getting caught in the fighting between the two Shan groups,” said Sai Naung, who is staying at Shwe Kyin monastery. 

The number of displaced people is likely to increase as fighting between the two armed groups gets closer to other villages, said Thar Zaw, a resident of Kyaukme. 

“The refugees can’t go back their villages, as the armed groups are staying in the village, even in their houses,” he explained, adding that the lack of food is the main problem as more and more refugees flood into the camps.

Another major concern is the education of children, who fled just ahead of their final exams.

Nam Saing Ham, a volunteer teacher at Shwe Kyin monastery school, said they plan to give the crucial exams to Grade 6, 7 and 8 students. 

“The township officer of the Ministry of Education is trying to find another date and place for the children refugees to take their exams,” she explained. 

The RCSS had clashed with the combined force of Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and SSPP troops in Namtu township in September last year. Fighting resumed after the military declared a unilateral ceasefire in the area on 21 December. 

The TNLA and SSPP are members of the Northern Alliance, which has not signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement. The RCSS, which has signed it, often clashes with the Myanmar military as well as the TNLA and the SSPP.