Myanmar junta troops destroyed supplies of rice and medicine intended for over 3,000 internally displaced people (IDP’s) in Pekon, southern Shan State, who were forced to flee their homes after intense fighting broke out between regime forces and civilian resistance fighters last month.
More than 100,000 villagers from over 150 villages and downtown areas in Pekon and Demoso, Hpruso and Loikaw townships in Kayah State have now been displaced for weeks.
Locals told The Irrawaddy that on June 8 junta forces burned 80 bags of rice, three barrels of cooking oil, dried food, medicine and two vehicles being stored at Loi Ying village in Pekon Township. The vehicles were an ambulance from the Mobye (Moebyel) free funeral services association and a private car.
“Junta forces and people defense forces (PDF) were involved in heavy fighting on June 7. On that day we gathered food supplies for the refugees in the village. As the PDF members withdrew, we were left with the food. But we were forced to flee when the military entered the village. They torched everything on June 8,” said one local.
“Medicines to treat diarrhea were among the items burned. Currently, over 3,000 IDP’s are sharing what little rice they have. They fled from their homes due to the fighting that followed the PDF’s seizure of Mobye police station,” he added.
Loi Ying village, which is home to ethnic Kayan people, is located over 15 miles from Pekon town. The whole village fled the fighting, which began in Kayah State’s Demoso Township, which borders Pekon.
Villagers have sought shelter at monasteries, churches and nearby villages by displaying white flags. But their temporary shelters have been attacked by the military regime’s artillery, with junta forces accusing the PDF of taking cover in them. An artillery attack on a church in Kayan Thar Yar village on May 24 killed four civilians sheltering there, prompting residents to flee into nearby forests and hills.
The IDPs are reportedly sheltering at ten different locations and are living on the support provided by local civil society groups. But many places lack adequate supplies of food, medicine and clean drinking water.
Fighting halted on Thursday and Friday, but locals are still fleeing whenever they see soldiers entering their villages, according to a spokesperson for the IDPs management committee in Pekin Kaw Khu in Loikaw Township.
He said they could not buy petrol, while donated food supplies are being held up by military checkpoints and the closure of the road linking Aung Pan and Taunggyi in Shan State.
Junta forces have set up checkpoints along the transport routes within Kayah State, blocking local transport. All vehicles travelling between Kayah State and Pekon and from Taunggyi are also being inspected.
Pekin Kaw Khu IDP camp is currently hosting more than 1,500 people and they only have food for one week.
“If they continue blocking the road, all the IDP’s could face going hungry,” added the spokesperson.
He urged that food, medicine and materials for shelters should be allowed past the checkpoints.
Myanmar regime troops are trying to eliminate the local PDF force. For about a week, they have cut off electricity, internet and cell phone access in areas where they suspect the PDF to be operating.
Junta troops have been accused of targeting civilians as well as the PDF.
A total of 131 locals have been detained since March 10, according to the Progressive Karenni People Force. Seven of those were arrested while on their way to the IDP camps.