Hundreds of Civilians Displaced in Tatmadaw Air Strike on SSPP
Locals flee to Kesi Township following intensified offensives with helicopter gunships.
By NETWORK MEDIA GROUP (NMG)
Tuesday, March 12, 2019
More than 500 people fled to Kesi Township following an air strike by the Burma Army on a camp belonging to the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA) on Sunday.
Clashes between the two forces have been occurring for four days in the area where southern and northern Shan States meet, despite a four-month unilateral ceasefire declared by the Burma Army in December of last year in five command regions, including Shan State.
Fighting intensified on March 10 when the Burma Army began firing on the area from helicopter gunships, locals confirmed.
“Helicopter gunships flew over this area today,” said one resident, who spoke to NMG on the condition of anonymity on Monday, adding that they had fired on the area the day before. “Government forces and the SSPP have been clashing at the border of Hsipaw, Kesi and Mongkai townships. The clashes are very strong.”
Another local told NMG that they initially heard gunshots and shelling in the mountains, but later the fighting moved closer to the villages. The air strike has been accompanied by a ground offensive.
“All of us fled from the village, with fear,” the individual said.
Nang Oum Kham, who has been helping internally displaced people arriving in Kesi Township, said that the flow of people has lasted three days, and that most are coming from Hsipaw Township. They are now staying in two monasteries, with 465 people in one and 80 in another.
“They need blankets because the weather is still very cold. They also need food—there is a food shortage. They cannot return home. We could still hear the sound of guns shooting this morning,” she told NMG.
Some villagers have sought refuge in Kesi after having endured injuries in the clashes. Nang Oum Kham said that one 50-year-old Ta’ang woman had been shot in the abdomen, and others had stepped on landmines.
NMG tried to contact both SSPP/SSA officials and the Tatmadaw’s True News Information Team for comment on the fighting, but received no response.