An unexplained bomb blast yesterday injured three children and killed one elderly woman in the central Shan State township of Mong Hsu, an area also struggling to support thousands of civilians displaced by recent fighting.
Multiple sources confirmed that the crude explosive went off at about 4 p.m. in an alley between a local Shan Literature and Culture Association office and a Buddhist temple in the center of Mong Hsu town.
Mae Tao Lek, 75, who was leaving the temple after a period of meditation, succumbed to her injuries today. Hospital staff and citizen reporters said her wounds were caused by shrapnel lodged in her back.
Nang Kham Khin, a 12-year-old girl who endured shrapnel to her face, has been transferred to a military hospital in a neighboring township for further treatment. Two novice monks, aged 11 and 12, were reported to have been treated for minor injuries in the local hospital.
“The most seriously injured is Nang Kham Khin,” a staff member of Mong Hsu Hospital told S.H.A.N, before Mae Tao Lek passed away. “She lost a lot of blood. We are worried about her.”
Both Mae Tao Lek and Nang Kham Khin were allegedly walking to a nearby water well commonly used for bathing when the bomb went off.
No one has claimed responsibility for the explosion, but locals fear that the bombing will be used to justify increased security and military presence in the area, which is only 15 miles from the location of recent clashes between the Burma Army and the Shan State Progressive Party/Shan State Army-North (SSPP/SSA-N).
Due to the fighting, there are an estimated 2,500 internally displaced civilians (IDPs) staying at two monasteries in southwestern Mong Hsu Township. They are Shan and Ta’ang, and most are reportedly women, children and the elderly.
“Soldiers have been checking who is supporting the IDPs, who is giving donations,” said one Mong Hsu elder, who wished to remain anonymous.
One woman, from Mong Hsu’s Wan Saw District, sought refuge in the monastery with her two children over one week ago. She fled with her whole village and is now surviving on locally-sourced donations.
“I came from my farm,” she told S.H.A.N. “My children were playing on the ground. When I heard the guns shooting, I picked them up and ran. I didn’t get to take any food or clothes.”
She arrived on October 16, the day after the controversial Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement was signed in Naypyidaw by eight ethnic armed groups and the government; SSPP/SSA-N was among the majority of non-state armed groups who opted not to become signatories, citing a lack of inclusivity.
Col. Sai La, SSPP/SSA-N spokesperson, explained that government officials had asked the SSA to abandon a strategic post in Mong Hsu Township, in Ta Sarm Bu village, an important trading location on the Nam Pang River. After heavy fighting, the SSPP/SSA-N left.
“We moved from there. But the Burma Army has not stopped fighting us, and has followed us even after we left,” Sai La said.
On October 20, the government-sponsored Myanmar Ah Lin (New Light of Myanmar) newspaper reported in Burmese that the SSPP/SSA-N had violated their 2012 ceasefire by not staying at their base in Wan Hai, Kesi Township. The Burma Army, they said, needed to “clear them out” for “security and stability.”
Fighting continues between an estimated nine Burma Army battalions and the SSPP/SSA-N in three Shan State townships—Kesi, Mong Hsu, and Mong Nong.
By SIMMA FRANCIS (Shan Herald Agency for News / S.H.A.N)
Reporting by SAI YIPHONG and NANG HOM (Shan Herald Agency for News / S.H.A.N)