More than 100 people were trapped in two Buddhist settlements on the outskirts of a village in Myanmar’s Shan state on Tuesday after the military took advantage of a lull in fighting with anti-junta forces to occupy positions in the area. take, sources told RFA Burmese.
The group of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and pagoda caretakers are being held at the Set Taw Yar Hill Top Pagoda and Mway Taw Pagoda Monastery complexes in Taunggyi district’s Moe Bye township, said a resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons. . They were captured Monday morning when some 100 junta troops entered the township and set up camp.
“People there have taken their phones away and are not allowed to leave the compound yet,” the resident said.
“There is no fighting yet, but we don’t know how long it will last. The silence may be broken tonight or tomorrow. The situation is very tense. The army has taken positions and [anti-junta] There are also forces in motion. It is difficult to say when collisions could occur.”
The displaced people were from their homes in Pwe Kone Ward No. 3 fled during fighting between the army and anti-junta People’s Defense Force (PDF) paramilitaries, the resident said. The 10 pagoda caretakers are from Zay Kone Ward and lived as guards at Mway Taw Pagoda Monastery.
From September 8-12, junta forces faced off against local PDF units and ethnic Karenni armed groups in a series of intense fighting in and around Moe Bye, a township on Shan State’s eastern border with Kayah State. According to the Moe Bye PDF, the troops called out airstrikes during the fighting, while the army’s 422 Light Infantry Battalion, stationed three kilometers away, attacked with heavy weapons.
The PDF said two of its fighters were killed and six seriously injured during the five days of fighting, while about 50 suffered minor injuries. It claimed that more than 60 junta troops were killed and “many wounded” during the same period.
RFA was unable to independently verify the number of victims reported by the PDF.
Residents in the area told RFA that junta forces re-entered Moe Bye with reinforcements on Monday, about a week after the fighting ended.
Aid workers told RFA that five civilians were killed and 15 others injured in Moe Bye by military shelling during the clashes. Moe Bye General Hospital is currently closed and the injured are being treated at nearby clinics, she added.
A spokesman for the Moe Bye Rescue Team, a local aid agency, said the majority of the city’s 25,000 residents had fled to Pekon Municipality – about 10 miles (16 kilometers) to the north – and other areas in southern Shan, as well as Loikaw. , the capital. of the state of Kayah.
“About half of them fled to the Kayah region, east of the city,” said the spokesman, who also declined to be named.
“I think about two-thirds of the population has fled the city,” he said, adding that the exact number of evacuees remains unclear.
On Tuesday, the junta had not released any information about the clashes in Moe Bye. Attempts by RFA to contact the junta’s spokesman in Shan State went unanswered.
A Karenni People’s Defense Force fighter told RFA that although there had been no recent clashes, the situation remained tense.
“[The military] re-entered with … two tanks from two sides, from the Wari supply station, where the first battle took place [last week]as well as from Pekon Municipality,” he said.
“Some wore civilian clothes and others were in uniform. They have lined up on both sides of the main road in the area and it is a very tense situation.”
According to a Sept. 10 statement from the Progressive Karenni People’s Force (PKPF), there are 16 PDF groups with a strength of nearly 16,000 across the border of Moe Bye township in Kayah. According to the statement, the junta has about 7,500 troops in the area, including 18 battalions and three artillery regiments.
Than Soe Naing, a political observer, said the junta is trying to regain control of southern Shan state, including the Moe Bye Dam, which contains water for the Baluchaung Hydroelectric Plant. PDF forces took control of the dam after the military coup on February 1, 2021.
“The Karenni Army and PDF control much of Kayah state and military tensions are high,” he said.
“I believe [the junta is] trying to regain control of this region because… [doing so] could affect the whole country.”
The PKPF said in a statement on Sept. 1 that there had been 454 battles and 158 airstrikes in Kayah state since last year’s coup, in which 261 civilians had been killed or captured.
Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.