300 Myanmar Villagers Flee Township as Ethnic Armies Approach

Around 300 villagers in northern Myanmar’s Shan state fled their homes on Thursday, fearing renewed fighting between the national military and ethnic armed groups seen approaching Namtu township, according to local sources.

Northern Alliance troops had taken up positions around Mangche village, where farmers saw them, Mi Lenda, chief of Namtu’s Panglon village, told RFA’s Myanmar Service.

These farmers told other villagers, and they fled their homes, he said.

The Northern Alliance, a military coalition of four ethnic armies, has been engaged in recent fighting with government troops in Shan and neighboring Kachin state.

One armed group, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), had joined in July with another, the Shan State Progress Party, in fighting against rival ethnic army the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army South (RCSS/SSA-S), sources said in earlier reports.

The TNLA and SSPP are fighting with the RCSS, Ta Phone Kyaw, a TNLA spokesperson said on Thursday.

We haven’t seen any fighting for the last three days, but the local villagers got worried and fled from their homes, he said.

The RCSS has threatened and arrested villagers, so they have legitimate fears, he said.

We heard that four villagers were arrested and taken from Namtu township’s Pangkut village on July 31, and that one villager was shot by the RCSS in Hsipaw township’s Sanphe village as well.

The TNLA has been fighting the Myanmar army and the RCSS in Shan state since late November 2015, about six weeks after the signing of a nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA) between the government and some of the country’s more than 20 ethnic armed groups.

The RCSS is one of 10 signatories of the NCA, while the TNLA has been excluded from signing the accord because of its ongoing hostilities with Myanmar’s armed forces.

Township residents are now sheltering in Buddhist monasteries in Hsipaw and at Mangsan village, with another 13 staying at relative’s homes, sources said, adding that local residents and government departments are providing aid to those displaced.

About 20 returned home as Northern Alliance troops near Mangche began to withdraw, sources said.

The armies are fighting only because they want to grab more territory, one Namtu resident told RFA on Thursday.

But the local people are the ones who suffer, he said.

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