By Nang Mya Nadi
More than 1,000 Palaung ethnic residents in northern Shan state have fled their homes as fighting between government forces and several ethnic armed groups continues to erupt in the region.
Lwe Poe Rein of the Taaung (Palaung) Students and Youth Association said fighting between the Burmese Army and armed groups, including the Kachin Independence Army, Taaung National Liberation Army and the Shan State Army-North, near Kutkhai, Mongtong, Namhsang and Namtu townships has forced residents to abandon their homes.
“Most people are fleeing into the jungle,” said Lwe Poe Rein.
“There are more than 1,000 people including women and children – most of the males are elderly.”
According to Lwe Poe Rein, the Burmese Army has five battalions active in the region and most of the displaced people are from Pankhagyi, Pankhalay, Naok, Sankaw and Konpaung villages in Mongtong township and Mawaw village in Namtu township.
Aid has not been able to reach victims hiding in the jungle, most of whom are tea farmers whose land has been ruined by the fighting.
Meanwhile, relief groups in Kachin state said heavy fighting in the Hpakant jade mining region has forced about 6,000 villagers to leave their homes. According to experts, there are an estimated 90,000 people in Kachin state who have been displaced.
The KIA and Burmese troops have been involved in intense fighting, after a ceasefire broke down in June 2011.
Although the government signed a raft of ceasefire deals earlier in the year with armed ethnic groups across the country, Burmese troops continue to engage in brief skirmishes with the rebel armies, which observers say is a sign that the military isn’t always willing to live up to the agreements brokered by union politicians.
With talks between armies actively fighting the government stagnating, armed groups are openly vocalizing their weariness of the ongoing peace process.