Numbers of villagers fleeing Burma Army atrocities have soared to over 30,000 during recent intensified attacks against the Shan State Army North (SSA-N), causing a dire humanitarian crisis in northern Shan State.
Over 4,000 Burmese troops from 42 battalions were deployed during July to seize the SSA-N headquarters of Wan Hai in Ke See township, backed up by jet fighter planes. Advancing through surrounding villages, troops have been scaling up atrocities against civilians, including killing, rape and mutilation. One dead villager was found with his leg and hand cut off.
An estimated 31,700 villagers from nine townships have fled since the Burma Army began its offensive on March 13, breaking its 22-year-long ceasefire with the SSA-N. Some have fled to towns, to Wa-controlled areas along the China border, or to the Thai border, but most are hiding in the jungle near their villages.
Those in hiding are facing chronic shortages of food, clean drinking water, shelter and medicine, with heavy rains exacerbating the situation. In the Wan Hai area alone, at least 24 displaced villagers, mainly children and old people, have died of diarrhea and malaria in the past month.
No international aid has reached these displaced communities so far. Aid agencies working officially inside Burma are being denied access to the conflict areas.
Shan community groups are appealing to the international community to provide cross-border aid through local relief teams to these internally displaced villagers.
“With the regime keeping tight control on all aid in Burma, cross-border aid is the only way to reach war-affected populations,” said Nang Hseng Moon, coordinator of the Shan Women’s Action Network. “We urge international donors to respond to this humanitarian crisis before further lives are lost.”
Although the Burma Army withdrew its extra battalions from the Wan Hai area in late July after facing heavy losses, their local troops remain encircling the SSA-N stronghold and fighting has been ongoing. Over 40 truckloads of new Burmese troop reinforcements have arrived from Lashio and Hsipaw this week.
Detailed lists and maps of recent abuses and fighting incidents, as well as video of displaced villagers, can be viewed on shanhumanrights.org and shanwomen.org