Report: Thousands flee fighting in Myanmar’s east


Area home to headquarters of ethnic rebel group who refused to sign ceasefire agreement with government last month

By Joshua Carroll

YANGON, Myanmar – Thousands of people have fled fighting in Myanmar’s eastern Shan state in recent weeks after government forces bombarded a village that is home to the headquarters of an ethnic rebel group, local media said Monday.

 The Shan State Progressive Party, which is based in Wan Hai village, says government forces are attacking them because they were among several groups who refused to sign a ceasefire agreement with the government last month.

 Around 6,000 have fled clashes in two townships in the last month, according to the Tai Youth Network relief group.

 Villagers told the Myanmar Times that Wan Hai came under heavy artillery fire Friday. The village appeared deserted over the weekend, the report added.

 The continued fighting throws into question the recent signing of a so-called Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, which the most powerful rebel groups refused to sign.

 President Thein Sein, a reformist former general, had repeatedly promised a nationwide accord in the hope of cementing his legacy ahead of a landmark general election Nov. 8.

 His failure to convince the well-armed United Wa State Army, the Kachin Independence Army and others to join confirmed the fears of critics who said Myanmar’s notorious military was not genuinely committed to peace. 

 Ethnic groups have been fighting for greater autonomy from Myanmar’s ruling generals for decades in what has been labelled the longest running civil war in the world.