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The Burmese Army in southern Shan State are distributing rice to the local population, caught up in fighting between government troops and ethnic armed group, the Shan State Army, in Kehsi Mensi township.
A local villager in Kehsi told DVB they were amazed to have received aid from the Burmese Army, as they had never received assistance before. They were also surprised because in the past their livestock had been stolen by government troops, who had previously been stationed in their villages and had forced them to flee their homes.
“[The Burmese Army] delivered 50 bags of rice to the monastery in Kehpun village and notified headmen from nearby villages to come get their quota; 11 bags for Nammaw village, three for Khontun, 15 for Namho and 18 for Wanmeit village,” said the villager, under condition of anonymity.
“The area has experienced a lot of fighting in the past but this is the first time we have been given [aid] by the Burmese Army.
“Residents from about 20 villages in the area had to flee their homes during fighting last month when Burmese troops arrived and stationed in their villages and stole their firewood, soap and ate their chickens. So this is very strange for them to see the army distributing rice for them.”
Fighting between the Burmese Army and the SSA has been intense since July 7 when 10 Burmese Army battalions surrounded northern SSA faction’s Wanhai headquarters in central Shan State’s Mongshu district. The Shan rebels accused Burmese forces of using fighter jets in the assault. Around 1000 of the local population in the area were forced to flee their villages as a result of the fighting, while local schools were shut down after government teachers also fled the area.
At the beginning of this month, the Burmese Army withdrew about half of its troops from Wanhai. However, they left behind some 500 soldiers from six battalions who are keeping their positions. Local villagers began returning to their homes following the partial withdrawal. They said government school teachers are also back in the villages gathering their students to reopen schools.