By NYEIN NYEIN
YANGON—Nearly 750 residents of Mong Yin village in northern Shan State’s Namtu Township have fled fighting between the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army South and a joint force of the Ta’ang Nationalities Liberation Army and the Shan State Progressive Party/Shan State Army North this week.
The displaced villagers are currently sheltering in Namtu town.
Tensions over a territorial dispute began to escalate again between the RCSS/SSAS and Northern Alliance members TNLA and SSPP/SSAN on Oct. 22. Fighting erupted on Oct. 24, forcing residents of nine villages to flee after artillery fire threatened their homes.
It was still not safe to return on Friday, and villagers remained in temporary shelters in Namtu town, said Sai Ba Nyan, vice chairman of Namtu Township’s relief team for internally displaced persons (IDPs).
While no fighting was reported on Friday, “The [ethnic armed organizations’] troops are still present on the routes to the IDPs’ homes, and they are afraid of being questioned,” he said.
Lacking adequate food and shelter, the IDPs have sought aid from locals and the Social Welfare Department, Sai Ba Nyan said.
They want the ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) to stop fighting, he said.
“We want no fighting,” Sai Ba Nyan said. “We would like to ask that they resolve their conflict at the negotiating table rather than with weapons.”
The last time fighting erupted in the area, it broke out north of the Namtu tributary, forcing villagers to flee south of the river. This time the fighting is south of the Namtu tributary, so the displaced fled into the town, he said.
Frequent clashes between EAOs near Namtu this year have disrupted farming. In mid-July, more than 1,000 people fled to temporary shelters in Namtu and nearby Hsipaw Township after fighting broke out. They were forced to spend a week in the shelters before heading home.
In an interview with The Irrawaddy last week, RCSS chairman General Yawd Serk said his group and both the TNLA and SSPP “would need to negotiate differences of opinion” regarding the clashes.
In May, two residents of Mansa village in Namtu were injured during an exchange of fire between the SSPP and TNLA.
Nyein Nyein is Senior Reporter at the English edition of The Irrawaddy.