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Renewed fighting drives 50,000 people from homes in northern Myanmar

Some 50,000 people have fled their homes over the last five days amid renewed fighting around Lashio, the capital of northern Shan state, residents and relief workers told Radio Free Asia.

At least 15 civilians have been killed since July 3, when forces allied with the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, or MNDA, began an offensive in the township around Lashio, which is home to the military junta’s Northeastern Military Command’s headquarters. 

Battles have since taken place in Nam Tong, Man Hawng, Nam Ma Baw Da and Nawng Mun villages.

Most of the deaths happened in one area of Lashio township that was struck by artillery fire during the first day of fighting, an aid worker who wished to remain anonymous for security reasons told Radio Free Asia. Several other residential areas have since been hit by artillery attacks.

“The artillery fire occurs frequently until now,” the aid worker said. “The residents have fled their homes in these areas.”

A heavy weapon that was dropped on another neighborhood on Sunday injured three Buddhist novices and two civilians, he said.

Residents flee from armed conflicts in Lashio township, July 2024, northern Shan state, Myanmar. (Citizen Photo)

Residents of Lashio township have been heading south toward the city of Taunggyi, the capital of Shan state that is about 340 km (210 miles) away, one resident told RFA. Others aimed to look for shelter in the Mandalay region or in the commercial capital of Yangon, he said.

Lashio sits at the junction of a highway that connects mainland Myanmar to the Chinese border to the north.  

Fighting between Lashio-based junta soldiers and insurgents resumed on June 25 after the collapse of a ceasefire brokered by Chinese officials in a series of meetings that began in January. 

The Ta’ang National Liberation Army, an ally of the MNDAA, announced the capture of 26 junta camps in the days following the end of the ceasefire.

The TNLA and other resistance forces in Mandalay have been attacking junta outposts in four townships in northern Shan state and Mandalay region.

RFA tried to contact MNDAA spokesperson Li Kya Win and the junta’s spokesperson for Shan state, Khun Thein Maung, for more details on the fighting, but neither of them answered the phone.

Translated by Aung Naing. Edited by Matt Reed and Malcolm Foster.