Myanmar fighting displaces 30 000

2011-08-10 22:10

Bangkok - More than 30 000 people have been displaced by fighting in eastern Myanmar this year despite the army handing power over to a nominally civilian government, activist groups said on Wednesday.

Civilians traumatised by atrocities of troops including rape and mutilation now face "a dire humanitarian crisis" as many have fled into forests near their villages in Shan state, according to the Shan Human Rights Foundation and the Shan Women's Action Network.

The groups called for international donors to help with aid, saying many were enduring chronic shortages of food, water, shelter and medicine, and noting 24 people had died of diarrhoea and malaria in the past month.

"With the regime keeping tight control on all aid in Burma, cross-border aid is the only way to reach war-affected populations," said Shan Women's Action Network coordinator Nang Hseng Moon.

"We urge international donors to respond to this humanitarian crisis before further lives are lost."

The skirmishes - which broke a 22-year cease-fire - began in March just weeks before the new civilian-led administration took over after years of rule by a military junta.

The change was supposed to herald a new democratic era in the repressive nation, but critics say little has changed and the new government has become a proxy for continued army rule.

More than 100 000 refugees remain outside the country, and hundreds of thousands more are displaced within Myanmar from past violence.

Fighting intensified in July, when 4 000 government troops backed by fighter jets moved to seize the northern Shan rebel group's headquarters in Wan Hai, the groups' statement said.

"Advancing through surrounding villages, troops have been scaling up atrocities against civilians, including killing, rape and mutilation," the statement said. "One dead villager was found with his leg and hand cut off."

Similar fighting further north in Kachin state has displaced 20 000 people since June. In Shan state, the groups say 31 700 people have been displaced since March.