Supply fears amid exodus

The people’s plea: A file photo of the words ‘We Want Democracy’ painted by pro-democracy protesters on a street in Yangon. — Reuters

PEOPLE displaced by an upsurge of fighting in Myanmar’s Chin State have voiced concerns over shelter and supplies as more flee the conflict that has sprung up between the army and insurgents opposed to the junta that seized power in February.

The exodus also threatens to push more people over the nearby border with India, where an Indian government official said more than 15,000 had sought refuge since the Feb 1 coup that has plunged the South-East Asian nation into chaos.

“When it rains, we don’t have strong shelters, ” said Mai, who fled on foot from the town of Mindat at the weekend and is now at a village 15km away.

“We have enough rice and dry peas, but we have to go and find vegetables. There is a shortage of oils and fuel for motorcycles.

“There are no medical supplies. Even if we have money, we cannot buy groceries, ” she said.

Those fleeing say thousands of people left Mindat after the army attacked to uproot fighters of the Chinland Defence Force, who are aligned with a National Unity Government formed by the junta’s opponents.

“There are also reports of civilians killed and injured and civilian property damaged or destroyed, ” the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on Tuesday.

“Access by humanitarian partners to the people fleeing violence or those still in their homes is challenging due to insecurity.”

Since overthrowing and detaining elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the junta has struggled to impose its authority in the face of daily protests, paralysing strikes and an upsurge of fighting against old and new groups of ethnic minority fighters.

The state-run Global New Light of Myanmar said insurgents had attacked two other locations in Chin state, which borders India, on Monday.

Residents said the fighting had prompted many people to flee the town of Kanpetlet, about 20km from Mindat but much further by road in the hilly state, a largely Christian part of predominantly Buddhist Myanmar.

An official in India’s Mizoram State said on Tuesday that more refugees were expected there too.

At least 10 people had been killed in Chin State in the past week, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners activist group.

It puts the death toll since the coup at 805, a figure disputed by the army. — Reuters

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