Nyein Nyein/The Irrawady July 25:More than 800 ethnic Palaung villagers in northern Shan State’s Namkham Township have fled their homes in recent days to avoid the growing number of clashes between the Burma Army and Palaung rebels, according to a local NGO.
De De Poe Jeing, secretary of the Ta’ang Women’s Organization, said more than 800 people had fled Mong Poe village and arrived at nearby Namkham town, located on the Burma-China border, on Monday.
She said some 800 displaced were registered and given temporary shelter at a factory hall used for tea leaf processing and supported by local residents, adding that another 200 people who fled were believed to be staying with relatives or friends in the town.
“They fear for their safety, while the whereabouts of three detained villagers from Mong Poe are not known yet,” she said.
The villagers fled after fighting between government troops and the Ta’ang (Palaung) National Liberation Army (TNLA) broke out near their village from July 19 to 21.
De De Poe Jeing confirmed reports by the TNLA from earlier this week stating that two civilians were killed and 10 injured during the fighting. She added that the injured were getting treatment at hospitals in Muse, Namkham and Mandalay.
She said her organization’s relief team is on their way to Namkham from Lashio, but heavy rains along the road from Khutkhai, Muse and Namkham has hindered their travels.
Sai Htun La, secretary of the Shan Nationalities Development Party and a Namkham resident, said, “The displaced Palaung are in desperate need as their villages are in the conflict areas.” He said local residents had donated bags of rice and some money to the displaced.
He added that the area around Mon Poe village appeared quiet in recent days, but villagers were still too fearful to consider returning to their homes.
The recent incident has pushed the total number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Palaung villages up to 4,600s, said De De Peo Jeing.
Since October 2012, the 3,800 Palaung villagers have been taking shelters in six camps in Namkham, Mang Tong and Khutkhai townships in northern Shan State to avoid fighting between the Burma Army and the TNLA and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA.)
The two rebel groups are allies and unlike many armed groups they do do not have a bilateral ceasefire with the government. In recent months, fighting has spilled over from Kachin State into northern Shan State, where clashes between government troops and KIA, TNLA and several other groups have become more frequent.
Casualties on the government side from the clashes are unknown, but the TNLA claimed last week that it had killed 178 Burma Army troops in more than 100 clashes since January.