Dozens of villagers in Burma’s northern Shan State fled their homes during harvest time after hearing all too familiar sounds of gunfire nearby.
Over 40 villagers took refuge in Kawng Nyaung Buddhist monastery in Loi Sawnt village-tract after fighting broke out between the Burma Army and Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA) in the late morning of this Tuesday (July 14).
Sai Sai says villagers saw the Tatmadaw military column the night before. The following morning it fought with RCSS/SSA soldiers about a half of a mile from Nam Maw Belu village.
RCSS/SSA spokesperson Lt-Col Sao Oum Khur confirmed the clash with Burma Army IB-101, which he says lasted about 20 minutes. “They entered our territory without informing us. We don’t know yet if there were any casualties.”
The RCSS/SSA signed a Union-level ceasefire on January 16, 2012. The ethnic armed organization (EAO) joined the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) in October 2015.
Despite this, the EAO has fought with the Tatmadaw many times in the last couple of years. Lt-Col Sao Oum Khur says fighting can be avoided if the other armed groups inform them before entering their controlled territories in southern and northern Shan State.
Villagers sheltering at Kawng Nyaung monastery fear they won’t be able to return to their paddy farms and finish the harvest. They are also concerned about living in close quarters in the Buddhist monastery during the coronavirus pandemic.
Many villagers in Kyaukme Township fled their homes after fighting broke out between the Burma Army and RCSS/SSA from June 25-29. During the clashes, Tatmadaw soldiers shot and killed a villager. One woman, who was shot by the Burma Army, survived the attack. Soldiers beat a civilian from Nam Kyin village.
Demanding justice for the victims, some 10,000 civilians peacefully protested in Kyaukme town on July 10.