At least 3,000 people have been displaced in recent days by fighting between local defense groups and government forces in Myanmar’s southern Chin state, with around 400 crossing for safety into neighboring India, local villagers and aid workers say.
Residents from around 30 villages in the state’s Matupi township are now on the run, one local source told RFA on Thursday.
“Some fighting is still going on, so we don’t have exact figures yet,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons. “People are fleeing mainly because of fear. When junta forces enter the villages, they destroy houses and make arrests, and so the people are frightened.”
Aid workers in the area say food is scarce for those fleeing to the mountains to escape the fighting between People’s Defense Force militias and junta forces that began last April.
Ten days of fighting in and around Matupi since Jan. 9 have left at least 18 junta soldiers and one member of a Chinland Defense Force (CDF) group dead, a CDF-Zotung spokesman said on Wednesday.
RFA could not independently confirm the number of those killed, and Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Min Htun could not be reached for comment.
Fighting between the two sides had continued until Wednesday, the Chin spokesman said.
“There have been battles almost every day, with some yesterday and some before. We saw aircraft in the sky, too. They may have been bringing in more ammunition or taking out their wounded. The troops are still around, so there will be more fighting,” he said.
More than 30,000 residents of Chin state have now fled clashes in the area to shelter in India, according to the India-based Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO).
“If this fighting continues it is likely that even more people will cross over to India,” said CHRO deputy executive director Salai Za Op Lin. “We are very worried about further human rights abuses committed by the military, as many of these are happening eve now.
“As soon as soldiers arrive in the vicinity, people become frightened and leave the villages to run away. And then many problems like finding food, water and medicine will follow,” he said.
In addition to those fleeing to India, there are more than 40,000 internally displaced persons now sheltering in Chin as government forces expand their operations in the area, disrupting local travel and the transport of food and other consumer goods, Salai Za Op Lin said.
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