Little aid, no contact: Shan State’s IDP crisis

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Shan State’s 10,000-plus internally displaced people (IDPs) are now dispersed between more than ten locations in six townships, according to data collected by the Tai Youth Network (TYN), a group of local volunteers worried that the basic needs of the displaced are not being met.

Children displaced by fighting in Shan State eat rice and cabbage in an IDP camp in Mong Hsu Township. (Oum Mwe: S.H.A.N)
Children displaced by fighting in Shan State eat rice and cabbage in an IDP camp in Mong Hsu Township. (Oum Mwe: S.H.A.N)

“No organization is helping them,” said Sai Hseng Murng, of TYN, after visiting Wan Wa, a Kesi Township village now hosting nearly 1,000 IDPs. The aid that has reached the IDPs has been collected and distributed through community-based relief networks rather than international organizations, local sources explained.

“Cold season is coming and they need more help,” he added. TYN delivered 300 bags of rice and 500,000 kyat (almost $400 USD) to the informal camp yesterday.

Concerned about conditions at Hai Pa, an IDP host site in Mong Hsu Township, Sai Thurein Oo, an MP representing Namzang in the Shan State Parliament, intended to travel to check on those displaced there—an estimated 1,500 people.

“The local people told us, ‘don’t go,’ because the Burma Army won’t let anyone through,” he said. “No one has been able to contact the Hai Pa IDPs since November 8.”

Burma Army checkpoints on area roads are also allegedly blocking the transport of any large amounts of rice to Mong Hsu, according to local merchants, in order to restrict the amount of aid that reaches IDP camps.

Also the site of repeated clashes, Kesi and Mong Hsu townships were previously host to a total of 6,000 displaced civilians, a number which increased by 40 percent after the current wave of offensives began more than one week ago, on November 10, two days after Burma held its first general election in 25 years.

In the past week, the crisis has extended to new locations, as IDPs have also sought refuge in Laikha, Mong Yai, Namzang Townships and northern Shan State’s Lashio.

Shan IDPs by Township

Today marks the third day of escalated Burma Army offensives near the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army-North (SSPP/SSA-N) headquarters, according to a statement released today in Burmese by the SSPP/SSA-N.

“They attacked with artillery and fighter jets and reinforced their troops,” the statement read. “The refugees are increasing day by day. They have lost their property.and they have had to leave their homes and flee. The farmers cannot harvest their rice. The children cannot attend school.”

On November 16, the Burma Army once again attacked the village of Wan Saw, formerly an IDP safe haven, with helicopters and fighter jets, displacing the civilians who remained or had returned after an artillery attack there six days earlier.

Major Sai Su, spokesperson for the SSPP/SSA-N told SHAN that civilians from five villages surrounding Wan Saw fled when they saw the jets on Monday, adding to the number of area IDPs.

Fighter jets reportedly dropped bombs near the SSPP/SSA-N Wan Hai base on November 17. Ground forces continued this attack in the early morning hours today from Kyu Mawk Khao, a Burma Army base; this was reportedly carried out through the repeated use of heavy artillery, a tactic documented regularly since the Burma Army initiated military offensives in central Shan State on October 6.

By SIMMA FRANCIS / Shan Herald Agency for News (S.H.A.N)

Reporting by NANG HOM and SAI YIPHONG / Shan Herald Agency for News (S.H.A.N)

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