08/21/2019, 10.49
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Shan State, closed schools and villages deserted amid clashes between the army and rebels

In the north of the region, violent skirmishes between government troops and militias of the Northern Alliance.  The cities of Naung Cho, Kyaukme, Lashio, Kutkai and Theinni are now deserted.  Humanitarian organizations fear the rise of displaced people, so far given refuge in Buddhist monasteries.  The price of rice skyrockets.

Naypyidaw (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Closed schools and new refugees: armed clashes between rebel armies and Myanmar armed forces (Tatmadaw) have driven more than 3,400 people to flee the municipalities of Lashio, Theinni and Kutkai - in northern Shan State, report Humanitarian organizations who are assisting the displaced at the Buddhist monasteries of Tayyar, Pannar, Makkinu, Hmine Tin and Mansu, in Lashio.

U Haung Dawng, secretary of the Joint Committee of Volunteer Groups, declares that more than 2,700 civilians have found refuge in reception facilities set up over the past four days.  Among the refugees, 300 come from Kutkai and 480 from Theinni.  Taken over the evening of two days ago, these numbers do not include people hosted by friends and relatives.  Local NGOs fear that the displaced will increase in the coming days.  "For now there is enough food, clothes and space to welcome them all, but if the conflict does not stop shortly we will be in great difficulty," says volunteer U Than Zaw.

Local sources report widespread skirmishes between Tatmadaw soldiers and militiamen of the Northern Alliance (NA).  The coalition brings together four ethnic rebel militias, at war with the Tatmadaw in the regions along the northern border of the country.  The northern alliance includes the Kachin Independence Army (Kia), the Ta’ang Nationalities Liberation Army (Tnla), the Arakan Army (Aa) and the Kokang's Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (Mndaa).  Unlike other rebel groups in the country, these have not yet signed the National Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), proposed by the government in 2015.

All schools in the region outside large urban centers are closed for security reasons.  The cities of Naung Cho, Kyaukme, Lashio, Kutkai and Theinni are now deserted.  The bridges connecting the municipalities of Kunlun and Hopan - on the Lashio-Muse highway - are destroyed: local trade has stopped and the price of primary goods has skyrocketed.  "A sack of rice, which usually costs 30 thousand kyat (17.75 euros), can now be purchased for a sum between 100 thousand (59.25 euros) and 150 thousand kyat (88.85 euros).  Some stores don't even have any to sell.  This is the main difficulty on the ground", reports U Haung Dawng.

Meanwhile, the government of Aung San Suu Kyi is struggling to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict.  The Peace Commission called on the Northern Alliance to meet this month to sign a bilateral ceasefire agreement.  The Commission and the alliance have met several times over the past year, both formally and informally, but the two sides have yet to reach an agreement.  The armed clashes erupted with renewed vigor last week, when the Tnla and its allies attacked a military academy in the district of Pyin Oo Lwin (Mandalay region), a motorway exit in the district of Naung Cho (Shan) and  a bridge along the highway connecting the Sino-Burmese border to central Myanmar.  According to the military, the fighting caused the death of nine soldiers, three policemen, as many civilians and inflicted damage for about 2.8 billion kyats (1.65 million euros).

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