By ZARNI MANN 31 October 2018
MANDALAY—About 2,000 villagers from northern Shan State arrived in Lashio on Tuesday after fleeing armed clashes between the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army South (RCSS/SSAS) and the Shan State Progressive Party/Shan State Army North (SSPP/SSAN).
Residents of Ei-Naing, Pan Pone, Kalar and Nang Har villages—located just 13 miles from Lashio—and Man Pyein, Namt Taung and Maing Taung villages in Namtu Township arrived in the state capital amid intensifying fighting.
“There are 1,402 refugees currently taking shelter at Mansu Monastery in Lashio. More than 500 others are taking shelter at Kachin Baptist and Roman Catholic churches,” said Ma Kaythi, a member of the Lashio Charity group, which is helping the refugees.
Local charities, civil society groups and local authorities were supplying the refugees with food, water, sanitary products and clothing.
“There is no need for [additional] aid yet, but we are worried that if the fighting continues, the children’s schooling will be disrupted,” Ma Kaythi said.
According to the groups helping the refugees, among the refugees are dozens of children whose schools have been closed by the fighting.
The refugees initially took shelter at monasteries and churches located in villages neighboring their own. However, as the fighting between the RCSS/SSA and SSPP/SSA become more severe in recent days, they decided to flee to Lashio.
“The SSPP soldiers frequently entered the church and monastery where we sheltered in recent days, so we no longer felt safe staying there. Our village chiefs suggested we go to Lashio, so we all moved out here,” said Ma Khun Nu, a resident of Ei-Naing who initially took refuge at a church in her village.
“We hope the fighting will end very soon so that we can go back home,” she said.
Fighting over territory between the RCSS/SSAS and SSPP/SSAN near Lashio erupted last weekend, displacing more than 500 people from five villages.
Additional clashes over territory near Namtu Township between the RCSS/SSAS, SSPP/SSAN and Ta’ang Nationalities Liberation Army (TNLA) that broke out last week have displaced about 750 people from eight villages.