Ij reportika Logo

Week-long battle in northern Myanmar displaces over 110,000

Week-long fighting between the junta and a northern ethnic army is responsible for mass displacement in Myanmar, locals told Radio Free Asia on Tuesday.

Junta troops entered Hsihseng city in western Shan state on March 3, where gunshots could still be heard as of Monday at noon, said one Hsisheng resident, asking for anonymity. 

“The battle is still going on. The junta based in Hsaik Hkawng village and Bang Yin city are shelling towards Hsihseng city,” he said. “On March 3, the junta troops returned to enter Hsihseng city, and the fighting has been going on ever since and hasn’t stopped yet.”

The Pa’O National Liberation Army captured Hsihseng on Jan. 22, causing junta troops and the allied Pa-O National Army to retaliate with heavy weapons and airstrikes. The Pa-O National Liberation Army is an insurgent group composed of the Pa-O, an ethnic group native to northeast Myanmar’s Shan state.

More than 100,000 people from six urban Hsihseng neighborhoods and 60 villages in Hsihseng township have fled to safety, as have the residents of 31 villages in neighboring Hopong township.

Fighting also resumed in southern Shan state’s Pinlaung township on Saturday, forcing nearly 10,000 civilians from 17 villages to temporarily relocate.

A Pinlaung resident who wished to remain anonymous for security reasons told RFA on Monday that fighting between the junta and Karenni Nationalities Defense Forces and allied Pa-O National Liberation Army resumed in the township after junta troops carried out an offensive.

“The junta army carried out the offensive and confronted them there. It’s been three days since March 9,” he said.

On Sunday and Monday, fighting grew more intense as the junta began using airstrikes and heavy weapons, he added.

Heavy damage in southern Shan state

The renewed conflict has killed nearly 50 civilians and injured 60 more from Jan. 22 to March 11, despite a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement signed by both the Pa-O National Liberation Army and junta officials in Hsihseng, Hopong and Loilen townships, according to the Pa-O Youth Organization.

Roughly half of the dead were killed by airstrikes or heavy weapons, among them five children, according to the youth organization’s Monday statement. 

“The military council has increased the airstrikes and drone bombings in the Hsihseng city battles. In Hopong’s Mae Nel mountain ridge, the junta carried out an airstrike when the locals returned after fighting calmed on March 8,” said Nan, a spokeswoman of the Pa-O Youth Organization. 

“It killed a man on the spot in Kyauk Ka Char village, Hopong township. About 10 houses were damaged, although there was no fighting in that village.”

In some areas, civilians are continuing to die from airstrikes, she added.

Thirteen of the near 50 deaths occurred when people died after being arrested and interrogated by the junta. Eight people, including those internally displaced, died due to other causes.

Four children were among the 60 injured. Airstrikes injured 36 people, artillery shells injured 18 and six were injured by landmines and other causes, according to the statement. 

The junta army fired over 1,500 explosives, and conducted over 400 attacks by air and drones, destroying nearly two hundred homes, as well as 15 religious buildings. 

RFA reached out to Shan state’s junta spokesperson Khun Thein Maung to confirm the organization’s statistics, but he did not answer calls.

In early 2023, conflict killed more than 30 civilians and displaced more than 10,000 during fierce battles between the Karenni National Defense Forces, affiliated resistance groups, or People’s Defense Forces, and junta troops in Pinlaung township.

Translated by RFA Burmese. Edited by Kiana Duncan and Mike Firn.