Thousands of civilians flee Myanmar city after military clash with rebels | Myanmar

Thousands of people have fled a city in western Myanmar after days of clashes between anti-junta dissidents and the military, during which soldiers shelled civilian homes, according to residents and the media.

Myanmar has been in crisis since Aung San Suu Kyi’s government was toppled by the army in February, sparking a national uprising that the junta has tried to crush.

Attacks on junta troops have increased after lawmakers ousted by the generals called for a “people’s defensive war” earlier this month.

Soldiers fought battles with about 100 members of a local defense group after being “ambushed” in Thantlang, in the remote state of Chin, near the Indian border, on Sept. 18, a board spokesman said on Tuesday. , Zaw Min Thun. He did not give casualty figures.

Residents began to flee on Monday after soldiers “began shooting randomly through the windows” of houses in the city, according to a local who did not want to be identified.

“Almost everyone has left,” he said, adding that he was taking refuge in a nearby village with about 500 people, and that several hundred had already made their way to India. Thantlang has a population of approximately 7,500, according to the most recent census.

Another resident said she traveled for three days with her elderly parents to reach India after soldiers bombed her home and fighting escalated in the city.

“I never thought of fleeing my own home, even after the military bombed it … but as things got worse … I finally had to flee,” he told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Residents across the border in the Indian state of Mizoram said an additional 2,000 refugees had arrived from Chin state since September 10. Some said they had seen military planes drop bombs on targets in Chin.

A resident of Thingsai village told AFP through a translator that on September 10 villagers heard gunfire and shelling across the border. Another said villagers saw military planes drop bombs.

A refugee who had crossed on September 15 said he rode his bicycle for three days to reach Mizoram. “We are very scared after the bombing. We had to flee. Two of my sons stayed behind to fight the military and protect our people, ”the man said, refusing to be identified.

Videos and images released by the media showed buildings in Thantlang that they said had been destroyed by the military, and domestic animals roaming the deserted streets.

Military spokesman Zaw Min Thun said 20 houses and a government building had been destroyed in a fire after the September 18 clash, without specifying a cause.

In recent weeks, anti-junta fighters have targeted communications towers belonging to the military-owned Mytel across the country, including Chin state.

The UN warned that the resumption of fighting in the region was causing more people to flee to India, where they urgently needed food and shelter.

In May, government forces used artillery to drive rebels out of the city of Mindat, in the southern state of Chin, and then cut off the water supply, according to a spokesman for a local insurgent group.

More than 1,100 civilians have died and nearly 8,000 have been arrested since the coup, according to local observers.

The board has defended its takeover by alleging massive fraud during the late 2020 elections that Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy overwhelmingly won.

www.theguardian.com

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