A senior United Nations official in Burma has released a statement expressing grave concern about the ongoing conflict in northern Shan State, where clashes between the Burma Army and an alliance of three ethnic armed groups have intensified since the middle of August.
The statement, released by the country’s UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator June Kunugi on September 4, highlighted the plight of civilians caught in the crossfire of fighting in the region.
“I am gravely concerned by the recent sharp escalation of conflict in northern Shan State, where, since mid-August, a reported 17 civilians have been killed and 27 more injured, many of them women and children,” the statement said.
Besides casualties, the conflict has also damaged infrastructure and made road travel unsafe, leaving many local people trapped in their villages, it added.
It also refers to an incident on August 31 that left five civilians, including three children, dead in the village of Maw Heik in Kutkai Township, and urges “all parties to the conflict to exercise maximum restraint to protect the civilian population from further harm and distress.”
The statement also welcomed the recent extension of the Burma Army’s unilateral ceasefire until September 21, while noting that it has been repeatedly violated.
“The United Nations encourages all parties to re-double their efforts to advance the Peace Process and offers its full support to finding a peaceful resolution to the conflict,” it concludes.
Last week, representatives of the Burmese government and the Northern Alliance, which includes the three armed groups that attacked Burma Army targets in Pyin Oo Lwin and northern Shan State on August 15, met in Kengtung to discuss ways to ease the conflict.
The meeting was met with some skepticism from Shan observers, who noted that it did not include any Burma Army representatives.
“Well, the armed forces on both sides need to discuss this. They shouldn’t just hold ‘for show’ peace talks,” said Sai Hor Hseng of the Shan Human Rights Foundation.