A village in northern Shan State’s Namhkam Township was allegedly torched last Friday amid fighting between ethnic armed groups the Shan State Army-South (SSA-South) and the Ta’ang Nationalities Liberation Army (TNLA).
Sai Seng Aik, the headman of the village of Hopang near Mongwi, a small settlement about 30 km southwest of Namhkam, said the village was set on fire in the afternoon of 6 May after villagers fled their homes to Mongwi as fighting broke out in the area.
“We fled to Mongwi and looked back at it — we could only see smoke rising but no one dared to go back and check their homes as there were clashes taking place in surrounding areas,” said Sai Seng Aik.
“On 7 May, accompanied by local Shan MPs, we went to inspect the area and found all 62 homes in the village burnt down, along with the rice mill and the community hall, and our cattle and livestock gone,” he added.
He claimed an elderly resident who could not flee his home was also killed.
While there were no witnesses to say who committed the atrocities, Sai Seng Aik said there was a note left at the site saying the damage was a consequence of the villagers cooperating with the SSA-South, suggesting it was the TNLA’s doing.
There are 275 displaced residents of the village now taking shelter at the Shan Literature and Culture Association building in Mongwi, where they are supported in part by a cash donation from the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy political party and the Metta Foundation, a charity group.
Meanwhile, Aye Maung, a member of the Shan State parliament from the Ta’ang National Party, said the recent clashes had also taken a severe toll on ethnic Ta’ang living in the conflict zone, and urged the government to restore peace in the area.
“The fighting has displaced hundreds of both Shan and Ta’ang people — there are nearly 300 displaced Shan and almost 1,000 Ta’ang,” said Aye Maung.
“It is sad to see them fighting each other. That is unbecoming and we wish the government to get on with a peace process immediately.”
In a statement, the TNLA denied that it had torched the village, claiming that it might have been shelled by the Burmese army, which was providing artillery support for SSA-South troops skirmishing in the area.
Fighting between the SSA-South and the TNLA broke out soon after the former group signed last year’s Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement.
That violence displaced more than 10,000 people in Namhkam and Kyaukme townships. Most were able to return to their homes as the fighting simmered down, but more recently renewed clashes have forced some 1,000 back to shelters in Kyaukme, according to the Kyaukme Social Assistance Association.