For five hours yesterday, the Burma Army fired long-range mortar shells at a high school in Kesi Township serving as a safe house for internally displaced civilians (IDPs), a local source confirmed.
The school in the village of Wan Saw had been housing 1,500 IDPs since fighting in central Shan State escalated in October. They said the attack was ongoing, from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m., and was launched by two groups within Burma Army’s Military Operation Command—known as Za-Ka-Ka—Nos. 2 and 17.
“They said the soldiers shot 60 mm shells at them about 60 times,” said Sai Rin, a 54-year-old who works in a Mong Hsu monastery now host to newly displaced IDPs from Wan Saw.
People hid in nearby bunkers until the firing stopped, and then fled the area, along with the 500 original Wan Saw residents, he said. With 2,000 civilians gone, the area is now nearly empty.
The New Light of Myanmar, the government mouthpiece, reported today in its English language newspaper that, on November 9, the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army-North (SSPP/SSA-N), who are based in the region, attacked them from “residential quarters” near their compound; the Burma Army has responded by “combing the area for enemy combatants.”
Sai Hla, spokesperson for the SSPP/SSA-N, told SHAN yesterday that they are fighting now to defend themselves.
“We have no reason to fight Za-Ka-Ka No. 2. They are 20 miles from Wan Hai,” he said.
“We want to solve the problem with peace talks,” he added.
Wan Saw’s recently displaced IDPs followed one of two routes to safety—to SSPP/SSA-N headquarters in Wan Hai, five miles west, en route to Kesi, or to the neighboring township of Mong Hsu, twelve miles east.
Those who arrived in Wan Hai had to flee for a third time when the Burma Army launched an attack on that area as well, as SHAN reported yesterday.
Around 400 people have now sought refuge in the village of Wan Wa, about three miles south of the SSPP/SSA-N base. Some continued on to Kesi Town, or to another central Shan State township, Laikha. For those who took the route to Mong Hsu, hundreds of Wan Saw’s IDPs have taken shelter in monasteries, both in the town and on the way.
Yesterday’s attack occurred two days after Burma held general elections for the first time in 25 years; voting did not take place in Kesi and Mong Hsu townships, because polling was cancelled due to ongoing conflict.
By SIMMA FRANCIS / Shan Herald Agency for News (S.H.A.N)
Reporting by SAI YIPHONG / Shan Herald Agency for News (S.H.A.N)