Hundreds Flee During Four Days of Fighting in Myanmar’s Shan State

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Four days of continuous fighting between Myanmar’s military and a rebel army in northern Shan state’s Lashio city, near the country’s border with China, have left at least 17 junta troops dead and forced hundreds of civilians to flee their homes to safety, local media and residents said Tuesday.

Clashes began on Aug. 28 when military troops attacked members of the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), the formal name of the Kokang army, and escalated the following day throughout Lashio’s townships of Pangsang, Kyukoke and Mongko, local sources told RFA’s Myanmar Service.

Four civilians, including a 10-year-old child, were killed in shelling by military troops on Aug. 29, said a resident of Lashio—a city of 130,000 people populated by Shan, the country’s second largest ethnic group, majority Burmans and Chinese.

“They fire heavy artillery, and the local civilians don’t see it coming,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Many civilians have been killed by the shelling. An entire family was killed in a blast two days ago. We are living in fear, as the shelling comes out of nowhere. We are all terrified by the artillery blasts.”

A resident of Mongko township, who also declined to be named, said that fighting also occurred on Monday and broke out again on Tuesday around 7:00 a.m. between the villages of Mongko and Mangmao.

“The villagers have fled their homes,” the resident said. “I don’t know where they are fleeing to. I don’t know the exact number of causalities. I heard some soldiers were killed in the fighting.”

MNDAA soldiers display weapons and ammunition confiscated from government troops in northern Shan state’s Mongko township, in an undated photo. MNDAA

Displaced persons

Myanmar’s military overthrew the democratically elected NLD government on Feb. 1, claiming the party had stolen the country’s November 2020 ballot through voter fraud. The junta has yet to provide evidence of its claims and has violently repressed anti-coup protests, killing at least 1,040 people and arresting 6,069 others, according to the Bangkok-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).

Amid nationwide turmoil, the military has stepped up offensives in remote parts of the country, triggering fierce battles with local People’s Defense Force (PDF) militias and some of the dozens of ethnic armies that control large swathes of territory along Myanmar’s periphery.

Volunteers assisting civilians in Lashio told RFA on Tuesday that more than 800 civilians had fled the fighting in the area over the past four days.

“We’ve got more than 700 IDPs (internally displaced persons) now,” said a volunteer in Mongko, where the refugees are temporarily sheltering at a Buddhist monastery and a church.

“They need mostly food and medicine. So far, we have been taking care of them with donations from the town residents. Additionally, there are no drivers or vehicles to transport commodities for these IDPs. We can transport medicines. But most drivers are too scared to drive out of town.”

Additionally, residents and volunteers said that more than 130 civilians had fled fighting in Mongko township near Post No. 102 on the border with China, adding to the 700 IDOs sheltering in the town center.

Soldiers killed

Sources in the area told RFA that the military had “lost many soldiers” during the past four days of clashes.

The MNDAA released a statement on Monday that included photos of machine guns, rifles, pistols and ammunition its fighters had captured from the military, as well as confiscated uniforms with insignias denoting the ranks of Major and Captain.

The Kachin Waves media outlet, based in neighboring Kachin state, reported Tuesday that the MNDAA and residents had discovered the discarded bodies of 17 government troops who were killed during fighting near Phaingkaung village in Mongko township.

Attempts by RFA to contact junta spokesperson Major Ge Zaw Min Tun for further information about the recent fighting and military casualties went unanswered Tuesday.

In April, three ethnic armed groups that support Myanmar’s anti-junta protest movement, including the MNDAA, killed 14 police officers and burned their station to the ground in a dawn raid in Naungmon, south of Lashio.

The raid sparked fierce fighting in Khar Shwe village outside Lashio as the military regime sent helicopters to attack ethnic rebels with the Three Brotherhood Alliance, which also includes the Arakan Army (AA) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).

Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.