Friday, March 1, 2024

Northern Shan State Fighting Causes Humanitarian Crisis

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Recent offensives in northern Shan State during the 1027 Operation have left over 50,000 people running out of food and other crucial supplies, as Brotherhood Alliance have cut off vital transportation links to the China border, and State Administration Council (SAC) has retaliated with relentless airstrikes targeting civilian villages.

After the ethnic armed groups destroyed Kyinthi Bridge in Hsipaw and Namtu Bridge in Hsenwi, both situated on the Union highway between Mandalay and Muse, there have been no food deliveries, and the costs of staple items in the area have exploded. According to volunteers helping those affected by the violence, at least 12 townships are affected.

Brotherhood Alliance have surrounded Lashio, where over 9,000 people have sought safety from the offensive launched on October 27 at many Buddhist monasteries. SAC’s Northeastern Military Command Headquarters are in Lashio.

“They need food, clothes, and shelter,” a Lashio man told SHAN.

A volunteer said the army won’t let people who fled Hsenwi enter Lashio, forcing them to stay in monasteries in villages around the town. “They do not allow rice, cooking oil, and other dried foods to be delivered from Lashio town to the villages, and the people are struggling to get food.”

The same is happening for people trapped in Hsenwi after the resistance has also encircled the town. Others who managed to leave are now hiding in villages between resistance forces and SAC troops.

“Those people trapped in Hsenwi have to share whatever food they have among themselves,” a local told SHAN. It’s a war zone for about 12 miles around the town, he said, making it dangerous to leave, but people are trying to flee practically every day, despite this, because they have very little to eat and ongoing fighting.

Meanwhile, Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and Mandalay People’s Defense Force (PDF) are still attacking a SAC convoy in the Gok Twin area between Nawngkio and Kyuakme townships. When the convoy started out in Pyin Oo Lwin in Mandalay Division, it had 40 vehicles, including two tanks, loaded with troops and supplies to relieve SAC soldiers in Nawngkio town. At least one of the tanks was reportedly destroyed during a previous raid.

SAC has been trying to defend against the constant ambushes by launching air bombardments with jet fighters and artillery. Some of the bombing has affected villages in Nawngkio and Kyaukme townships, where over 27,000 have been displaced.

After TNLA captured the town of Namkham, SAC has been shelling it from its Sakhan Thit hilltop camp, causing over 5,000 to flee to the China border in Muse Township. Like everyone else affected by the war, they are desperately running short of food and other supplies.

Over 2,000 civilians from Panghsai (Kyukok) sub-township located in Muse District are sheltering near the Wang Ding border checkpoint.

In Laukkai, over 4,000 people have fled the Kokang town and got stuck somewhere along the road without supplies.

More than 10,000 people from Chin Shwe Haw, Laukkai, and Kunlon have fled to Nam Tip located in Special Region 1, controlled by United Wa State Army (UWSA). UWSA has rejected over 5,000 people and sent 2,000 to Tangyang Township and more than 3,000 to Mong Yang Township. The Wa armed group will eventually transport these people all the way to Taunggyi in southern Shan State.

As fighting continues with SAC and Brotherhood Alliance, as well as the various PDFs and other groups supporting them, the regime has enacted martial law in Lashio, Hsenwi, Kutkai, Namkham, Muse, Kunlong, Laukkai, and Kongyan townships, making it more difficult for civilians affected by the war.

“With a curfew still active, we worry about not reaching our destination (in time),” said a volunteer helping those attempting to escape from the conflict. Under martial law, people are forbidden from gathering in groups of five or more, creating more difficulties to help them, he explained.

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