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The families of police officers in Laogai, northern Shan State, have been evacuated following an attack on the town’s police station on Sunday. Around 130 family members have left the area.
A source – identified as the wife of a police officer – arrived in Lashio on Sunday and told DVB that authorities in Laogai, also spelt Laukkai, had ordered the evacuation after the attack on 14 February, in which the police station came under fire.
She said that the local police – along with other police reinforcements to the area – were still battling alongside the Burmese army in hand-to-hand clashes against Kokang rebels and their ethnic allies.
“I contacted my husband while we were en route to Lashio. He said that the police were exchanging gunfire with the rebels who had taken up positions in the houses across the street,” said the policeman’s wife.
“There are around 70 police reinforcements from Lashio involved in the fight,” she added.
The local authorities evacuated around 500 people from Laogai on the evening of 14 February. One hundred and thirty police family members and migrants from other areas of Burma – including some workers from the Irrawaddy delta and Magwe Division – were removed from the area on trucks to Lashio.
She went on to say that, as of Saturday, when she was evacuated, the town of Laogai was almost deserted as most residents had fled, either across the border to China or southward to the town of Lashio. Those who could not find transportation to Lashio had apparently begun to walk along the stretch of road, approximately 200 kilometres.
Saturday’s evacuated civilians, including the police families, were given shelter at the Mansu monastery in Lashio.
A sugarcane plantation worker, who was among those that had fled, told DVB that local shops and homes in Laogai had been looted as fighting raged in the town.
“There were continuous breakouts of gunfire in the town throughout the night before we were evacuated, and also in the afternoon that we left [Saturday]. Most buildings have been looted,” said the source.
Hundreds of migrant workers who arrived in Lashio over the weekend have been transported to Mandalay under official arrangements to be returned to their hometowns.
These latest evacuees join hundreds more who have already taken refuge in Lashio amid heavy fighting between government forces and Kokang rebels. Thousands more civilians have poured over the border from Laogai to seek shelter in China since the conflict erupted last week.
Following reports that the Burmese military had deployed airstrikes in order to quell Kokang rebel attacks, the Nationalities Brotherhood Federation, an alliance of 20 ethnic political parties, released a statement on Wednesday, urging “both sides to refrain from increasing military operations and the use of airstrikes while the peace process is ongoing.”