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Thousands stuck between checkpoints on Myanmar road amid renewed fighting

Several thousand people have been stranded for 10 days on a major highway in Myanmar’s Mandalay region after residents fled from the ruby mine township of Mogoke, where intense fighting between the military junta and insurgent forces resumed late last month.

Residents told Radio Free Asia that about 300 vans and about 50 trucks – most carrying people – as well as hundreds of motorbikes, have been stuck between military junta checkpoints on the Mogoke-Mandalay highway.

People started traveling south toward Mandalay, the country’s second-largest city, after a ceasefire in place since January broke down on June 25 when the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, or TNLA, resumed fighting across northern Shan state and Mandalay regions. 

Thousands had to stop for more than a week when junta troops blocked the road in Thabeikkyin township, residents said. Among them were pregnant women and people with chronic diseases or gunshot wounds. 

They were allowed to proceed on the highway Tuesday morning but another checkpoint further down south in the township left them stuck once again, the residents said.

“The security checkpoint was opened because people were rushing despite the ongoing battle,” one resident said, citing nearby fighting between the military and anti-junta forces. “The gate was opened even though the road wasn’t safe.” 

A five-month long ceasefire ended last month after the TNLA accused junta forces of repeatedly carrying out drone and artillery attacks and airstrikes in several townships in Shan state, including Mogoke.

As part of a renewed offensive, the TNLA and its allies attacked two junta infantry battalions in Mogoke, which is about 200 km (120 miles) north of Mandalay city.

The TNLA is one of three forces in the Three Brotherhood Alliance that launched Operation 1027 in October. In January, Chinese officials brokered the ceasefire between the three allied armies and junta forces as fighting late last year was posing a risk to Chinese economic interests across the country. 

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