Tuesday, July 19, 2011

As fighting continues, Shan refugees seek safety in jungle

Tuesday, 19 July 2011 16:51 Kyaw Kha

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Fighting between Burmese government troops and the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N) has sent hundreds of war refugees into hiding in the jungles.

In this 2010 file photo, a group of Shan await aid after
being displaced from their homes because of fighting
that threatened their villages. Photo: Mizzima
Since July 11, fighting has broken out around Wanhai in Kyethi Township where SSA-North headquarters is located. War refugees from more than 20 villages located between Kyethi and Mong Yai have been displaced from their homes.

“The villages are far from NGOs and charitable organizations, so they can not get help. They have to stay in the jungle. Most of the refugees are women and children,” Sein Kyi, an editor of the Thailand- based Shan Herald News Agency, told Mizzima.

There are 20 to 100 houses in each of the affected villages, where residents have abandoned their farms because of the war.

The main crops of the villagers are peanuts and soya bean.

“Some grow crops and some have cows and buffaloes. Sometimes mortar shells landed on the villages so they fled,” Sein Kyi said. Some of the refugees are moving toward Thailand or China to seek refuge there.

“The current government continues to choose military ways instead of a political way,” said Major Sai Lao Hseng, the spokesman of the Shan State Army-South, which recently recombined with the SSA-N.

Sein Kyi said, “We cannot afford to build refugee camps. The area is full of tension with the possibility of more fighting. The only thing the Shan Army can do is to add a word of caution about more possible fighting.”

Meanwhile, fighting has broken out between government troops and Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) between Momauk Township and Waimaw Township in Kachin State.

On Sunday and Monday, more than 1,000 war refugees left their villages in the area to seek refuge in KIO camps in Laiza, where the KIO headquarters is located, according to the Kachin Refugees Relief Committee chairman Dwe P Sar.

“Fighting has continued,” he said. “They come here because of the danger in their areas.”

In Kachin State, fighting began on June 9. The KIO has set up rescue camps in Laiza, Waimaw and Momauk for more than 9,000 refugees.

Religious organizations and Kachin social organizations provide additional help to refugees in the camps, Dwe P Sar said. The number of war refugees who are taking refuge in China is unknown, sources said.

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