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Clashes displace 15,000 civilians in western Myanmar

The Kachin Independence Army (Brookings Institution/Released)
May 30, 2024

This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.

Fighting in western Myanmar has forced thousands of people to flee from their homes, left parts of a town in smoldering ruins and killed three civilians, residents told Radio Free Asia, as opponents of military rule try to defeat the junta that seized power in 2021.

The clashes between junta troops and insurgent groups in Chin State, which is on the border with India, displaced 15,000 people in two days and led to the destruction of parts of Tedim town, they said. 

Anti-junta insurgents from Chin State control 10 towns in the state, while another ethnic minority rebel group, the Arakan Army, controls two others.

A battle broke out on Sunday night and continued into the next day, said a resident who declined to be identified for security reasons. Two people fleeing by motorcycle from Tedim on Monday morning were hit by artillery fire. A 40-year-old woman was killed  while her male cousin was wounded.

“She was taken to a nearby house after she was injured. That’s when she died. She was cremated in Tedim on Tuesday morning,” he said. “Her cousin, who was also hurt, has a broken leg and is now being treated at a hospital in Kale town.”

On Sunday, the junta’s air force bombed nearby camps occupied by the Zoland People’s Defense Force, a Chin group opposed to the junta, residents said. Junta aircraft also bombed two villages controlled by the rebel group, killing two civilians.

RFA called Chin State’s junta spokesperson, Aung Cho, to ask for information about the clashes, but the calls went unanswered.

Most of the displaced people are taking shelter in Kale, a town in the neighboring Sagaing region, about 80 km (50 miles) away, said another resident who also asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals. Others are sheltering in nearby forests. 

“Most of the residents fled,” the second resident told RFA  “Most of them fled to Kale town. There are some who could afford to go to Champhai,” he said, referring to a town in India.

At around noon on Monday, junta soldiers burned about 30 houses in Tedim, one of the residents said.

“The burnt houses were the ones near the clock tower in Myoma neighborhood and down by the telecommunication office,” he said, asking to remain anonymous given security worries. “All the houses near the local administration office were also set on fire.”

Dr Sasa, a senior official in a shadow civilian government, said the destruction in Tedim was a crime against humanity and the international community should help.

“Tedim town in Chin State has been burned down by the brutal forces of Myanmar’s military junta … It is imperative to help Myanmar end this reign of terror and build peace,” Sasa, who goes by one name, said on the social media platform, X. 

An official from Zoland People’s Defense Force, which occupies territory in Tedim township, told RFA that the allied Chin defense forces captured nine junta soldiers, as well as several military camps.

“There are three places [we captured], including the junta’s Electric Power Corporation office,” he told RFA on Tuesday, declining to be identified for security reasons. “Some junta soldiers were killed during the battle, but those captured alive will be treated according to the law.” 

One member of the anti-junta Chin force was killed and three were wounded, he said.