Fearing More Clashes, Villagers Seek Refuge in Kyaukme Monastery

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Locals from eight villages are staying in a monastery in Kyaukme Township, northern Shan State saying that they fear that the Burma Army will carry out “clearance operations” in their area.

The Burma Army and the Restoration Council of Shan state (RCSS) have had frequent clashes in the township since June 25.

With recent troop reinforcement by the Burma Army in the area, locals say they fear clashes will intensify.  

“The Burma Army is sending more troops into this area everyday. I don’t know when clashes will occur in our area,” local woman Nang Hla Yee told SHAN. “We fled and sought refuge in a monastery. We are all afraid.”

According to Nang Hla Yee, villagers from the communities of Kong Nyawng, Nam Maw Belu, Nam Han Kein, Yaysan, Ho Fai, Hai Kwee, Nam Wah and Pang Kyan villages are staying in the monastery.

“We cook and eat at our homes. Then we go to stay at the monastery. We are so worried that clashes will occur while we are cooking at our homes,” she said.

Following the death of local man Long Su, who was shot and killed by soldiers during last month’s fighting, the Burma Army sent an investigatory committee to Pang Kyan village in Hai Kwee village tract to look into the matter. Another man in the community was beaten by soldiers, and a woman suffered gunshot injuries.

However, the committee—which included a brigade commander, a township General Administration Department officer and other officials and security guards—also was accompanied by a military column.

Soldiers reportedly opened fire as the committee entered the village, causing people to flee.

“We, the villagers, are afraid of soldiers when the military columns come into our area. That’s why we have stayed in the monastery at night. We are so worried that clashes will occur in our area,” Kyaukme resident Sai Win told SHAN.

He added that they cannot tend to their paddy fields amid the continued military tension.

More than 10,000 local people protested military violence in Kyaukme town on July 10. Protesters carried banners stating, “We don’t want a Tatmadaw that kills innocent people.”

The Burma Army then sent more troops into Kyaukme, coinciding with their investigation into the civilian death and abuse.

“After the protest, they sent more troops. They randomly shoot in villages,” Sai Win told SHAN.

The new troops have largely been sent into territory typically patrolled by the RCSS, which is a signatory to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) with the government and military.

“If they send more troops, clashes can occur at any time. They open fire with one-sided shooting. They are breaking the NCA,” RCSS spokesperson Lt-Col Sai Oum Khur said.

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