23 November 2015
We wish to alert you to recent events in Shan State, Eastern Burma, which have left more than 10,000 people displaced and many killed and injured.
Whilst the world is distracted by election results in Burma, the Burma Army has launched a massive offensive in Central Shan State. Fighting has also escalated in Kachin State and Palaung area of Northern Shan State. The Shan Women’s Action Network strongly condemns the attacks, which have left thousands without food and shelter.
SWAN’s Charm Tong recently spoke to the media about the attacks: “The fighting is escalating, with the Burma Army indiscriminately shelling and shooting civilian homes, temples and temporary IDP [internally displaced person] camps. The situation has terrorized the local communities”, she told the Irrawaddy.
Many believe that the recent offensive is linked to the Shan State Army North’s (SSPP/SSA) decision not to sign the country’s National Ceasefire Agreement, citing concerns that the document’s conditions were unfair. Of the 21 main Ethnic Armed resistance groups in Burma, only eight signed on to the final agreement on 15 October 2015.
SWAN is deeply concerned about the effects of the fighting on women and children. Among the 10,000 people who are currently sheltering in temples, makeshift camps and in the jungle, are more than 1,500 children unable to attend school and forced to close a lot of school. One of SWAN’s schools, funded by the UK Government, located in the conflict zone, has been forced to close. Among the reported casualties, the exact number which remains unknown, are two little girls (Laikha Township) who were killed last week when they mistook an unexploded grenade for a toy.
SWAN’s health workers are assisting villagers in the IDPs settlements. They say that pregnant women have been forced to give birth in temporary shelters, and some have given birth in the jungle while fleeing. Elderly people have died of shock during the bombing raids.
The Burma army has burned many of the abandoned villages, meaning people have nothing to return to. Crops remain unattended in the peak of Burma’s harvest season, which will lead to food shortages in the coming year. Recently when some villagers of Mong Nawng who had been in an IDPs camp, dare to risk their life by returning home to collect some rice, they were shot at by the Burma Army.
The Burmese military have blocked all access to a large IDP settlement in central Shan State, where around 1,500 people have sought temporary shelter. No aid is currently able to reach these villagers. Reports reaching SWAN estimate that there is only enough food left there for one more week. Medical supplies are urgently needed, and as Burma enters its winter season, people are without warm clothes or blankets.
Staff members from SWAN’s Education Program visited border areas in northern Thailand last week, where they were told by locals that there had been a steady trickle of refugee families arriving from central Shan State since the conflict began in early October.
We implore the international community to publically condemn the recent attacks by the Burma Army. Whilst we are cautiously optimistic about election results, we cannot ignore the horror of current events unfolding in the east of the country.
Thank you so much for supporting us.
Shan Women’s Action Network (SWAN)