Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Regime Occupies Koong Sar, Preventing Villagers From Harvesting Paddy

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After the army attacked a village last week, soldiers have remained in people’s homes and the high school, preventing the villagers who returned home after fleeing the attack from leaving their homes and harvesting their rice fields in Hsipaw Township, northern Shan State.

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The military sent 80 soldiers in about eleven trucks to attack the Shan State Progress Party (SSPP) as it prepared food in Koong Sar, also called Kon Tha, to offer monks at the end of a three-day Shan New Year celebration. Regime soldiers from Infantry Battalion (IB) 68, based at Kho Long Bridge, three kilometres west of the village, and IB Battalion 23 from Hsipaw forced the Shan armed group to retreat after a 30-minute battle.

Some villagers returned to Koong Sar, located on the Mandalay-Muse highway, about 10 kilometres east of Hsipaw town, after four days of fighting between the groups ended, only to find themselves regulated to their homes.

IDPs sheltering at a temple in Hsipaw Photo SHRF
IDPs sheltering at a temple in Hsipaw. Photo: SHRF

“It is time to harvest our rice and sesame crops, but we cannot go to our fields. Because there are soldiers staying in the houses of our village and in the surrounding area, we are afraid of being shot or arrested,” said a woman who wished to remain anonymous because she feared for her life.

High school students have not been able to attend classes since the army invaded the village, which caused about 700 residents of Koong Sar and surrounding villages to flee to Hsipaw town.

A man, who also requested anonymity for security reasons, said the villagers need help to repair the 14 houses damaged by shells and bullets during the clashes. Fortunately, no civilians were hurt when the violence happened.

“Although the soldiers still occupy our village, we risked returning because there wasn’t enough food and space in the camp (in Hsipaw town),” he said, explaining that they only had one sack of rice for 300 people (from Koong Sar) and very few vegetables to eat.

The man wants the army to leave so they can get on with their lives again.

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