Thousands of people fled their homes again after fighting between two armed groups resumed in northern Shan State last week, prompting calls from locals and prominent politicians for ‘a ceasefire.
Troops loyal to the Shan State Progress Party (SSPP) began fighting with Shan State Restoration Council (RCSS) forces in the village of Hohke on September 14, with the former group firing at one point in the heavy artillery which destroyed two houses.
Both groups call their armed wings the same name – the Shan State Army – but the SSPP adds the nickname with the word North while the RCSS fighters are known as the Shan State Army – South.
More than 3,000 people have fled their homes, sought refuge in neighboring communities and are in urgent need of help, said a volunteer helping the displaced.
“Entire villages had to flee once the fighting started,” he said. The fighting looks set to continue and the number of displaced people could therefore increase, he added.
Ten of the 17 villages in the Hohke region, which is in Mong Kung County, saw some or all of their residents flee amid the fighting.
Many of those who fled were displaced from their homes in July when the two groups clashed in the nearby Loi Hun hill range, near the SSPP headquarters in Wanhai, Mong Hsu Township. During these clashes, thousands of SSPP soldiers attacked RCSS units stationed in the hills.
RCSS spokesperson Major Kham Hseng said the ongoing fighting started when his group’s units in Hohke village were attacked.
Fighting also broke out intermittently in the townships of Kesi (Kyethi), Mong Kung, Hsipaw and Kyaukme, he added.
Major Kham Hseng said his camp was also fighting the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), which fought alongside the SSPP in northern Shan.
“We don’t want others to think that two Shan organizations are fighting against each other. The TNLA is also on their side, ”he said. “[There is] an alliance between armed groups in the northern region as well. It is therefore quite worrying that their collective forces are going to attack us. “
Rumors circulated that the powerful United State Army of Wa was also fighting alongside the SSPP in the hills of Loi Hun, but Major Kham Hseng declined to comment on this information.
Several calls from Myanmar Now seeking comment from SSPP officials went unanswered.
The SSPP and RCSS oppose the coup, residents say, and are fighting for control of territory in the region. The two groups started fighting when RCSS troops entered northern Shan territory in 2016.
Locals refer to the SSPP as the “green” army – a reference to the united green uniforms of its fighters – while the RCSS is known as the “camouflaged” army because its soldiers wear camouflage patterns.
SSPP fighters fired mortar shells on Sunday after being attacked by RCSS troops with small arms. The shells fell inside the village of Hokhe, where RCSS troops were stationed, and hit two houses in the village of Hokhe.
“Because the RCSS was in the village and the green team was outside the village, they thought they would not respond to the attacks,” said the volunteer. “But the Greens started firing shells unexpectedly, which destroyed two houses. We have lost count of the number of shells that have been fired.
Several displaced people, all Shan women, were injured on Monday in a car accident caused by poor road conditions in Pang Kay Tu village after fleeing Hokhe.
“Four of them had quite serious injuries, so they were sent to Mong Kung hospital,” they were then sent to Loilem hospital as their condition worsened, “the volunteer said. One of the women suffered a serious head injury.
Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) politicians called on the two groups to negotiate a ceasefire and criticized them for putting residents even further at risk as much of the country is united in the fight against the junta.
“It is very shameful that two Shan groups are fighting against each other amid the deteriorating political situation,” said Sai Lone, a former party MP elected in 2015. “All people and all monks implore peace. “
Sai Leik, the party’s general secretary, said he repeatedly called for negotiations but his efforts were in vain.
“They should stop this internal struggle between the two Shan groups before it is too late, because the political situation is very complicated,” he told Myanmar Now.
He tried to contact each organization to directly request a ceasefire, he said, adding that he was saddened to learn that displaced people were injured in the car crash.
“It breaks my heart to hear about such issues,” he said.