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Clashes spread in Shan State

By Myanmar Times  •  February 12, 2016

By Ye Mon, Thu Thu Aung

Hundreds of civilians in northern Shan State are reported to have fled a sudden offensive by government forces and separate fighting between two ethnic armed groups, while senior monks are intervening to help villagers trapped in the war zone.

The two days of fighting in Kyaukme township follows earlier clashes to the northeast in Namkham township where some 550 villagers fled advancing forces of the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), which has been fighting the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) sporadically over the past two months.

Local activists said the refugee crisis worsened yesterday as the Tatmadaw also attacked the TNLA, this time in Tove San village in Kyaukme township. Sai Than Maung, a former township MP who is helping the IDPs, said about 450 people had arrived in 15 trucks in the town of Kyaukme.

“We are arranging for them to take refuge in Taung Nauk monastery,” he told The Myanmar Times.

Ta’ang youth activists yesterday said fighting on February 10 between the RCSS and the TNLA in the villages of Tot San and Nyaung Maung in Kyaukme township had sent more than 700 civilians fleeing for safety.

Mong Myo Aung, a senior member of the Ta’ang Students and Youths Association (TSYA), said two civilians were wounded in Nyaung Maung.

“The civilians are staying temporarily in monasteries. The government and NGOs have not sent aid yet. They need help, especially warm clothes, because it is very cold there,” he said.

The Ziwitha Philanthropic Organisation (ZPO) said IDPs were still arriving. Four temporary camps have been set up in Kyaukme Siho monastery, the Yay U Meditation Center, a Kyaukme home for the aged and Moe Kaung monastery. Most of the IDPs were said to be ethnic Shan and Ta’ang, also known as Palaung.

U Tin Maung Thein, chair of the ZPO in Kyaukme, said senior monks from the area had gone to the war zone to negotiate the free passage of some 800 people trapped by the fighting between Tot San and the village of Pan Sa and sheltering in a Chinese temple.

“Kyaukme sayadaws went to the conflict zone and are demanding that the armed groups release the civilians,” U Tin Maung Thein said.

The TNLA said fighting with the RCSS was continuing yesterday in both Kyaukme and Namkham townships and that it had not been able to contact the RCSS to negotiate a ceasefire.

“We don’t want more fighting with them [RCSS] but they invaded our territory. We understand we need to negotiate with them but talks have not started,” said TNLA spokesperson Mai Aike Kyaw.

He said the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) was mediating between the TNLA and RCSS to arrange direct talks.

UNFC general secretary U Tun Zaw said they were trying to arrange a time and place for the talks, which needed to be held as soon as possible.

The RCSS was one of eight ethnic armed groups to sign the “nationwide ceasefire agreement” with the government last October.

The TNLA was excluded by the government from the peace process and has previously accused RCSS forces of coordinating offensives with the Tatmadaw. The RCSS denies this.

Meanwhile, a report to be released today says successive military regimes have used “divide and rule” tactics in dealing with ethnic armed organisations, and that northern Shan State has been the scene of worsening conflict between signatory and non-signatory groups since the ceasefire signing last October.

Burma Partnership, a network of organisations advocating for human rights and democracy, says in the report marking Union Day that 2015 saw more conflict and an increase in IDPs.

It calls on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to stand by her commitment to make the peace process inclusive, by bringing in groups that refused to sign the 2015 ceasefire and those excluded by U Thein Sein’s government. But it also notes the challenge the NLD leader will face in dealing with a military that the 2008 constitution effectively places above civilian control and that acts with impunity.

According to UN figures, the number of IDPs in Myanmar rose by some 10,000 in 2015 to more than 660,000.

View the original post here: http://www.mmtimes.com/index.php/national-news/18957-clashes-spread-in-shan-state.html

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