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Burma: Hundreds of monks flee the fighting between the army and rebel factions

Burma: Hundreds of monks flee the fighting between the army and rebel factions

Hundreds of monks have fled their monastery in eastern Myanmar to escape fierce fighting between the army and anti-junta rebel groups, witnesses told AFP.

In Loikaw, Kayah state, about 30 monasteries were abandoned and their residents left the city in dozens of trucks, one of them told AFP on condition of anonymity.

He added that several monks also fled from the congregation of Dimoso, a few kilometers away.

These two cities, located 200 km east of the capital Naypyidaw, have been the scene of fierce fighting between the rebels and the armed forces for several days. The latter launched air strikes and artillery shelling.

The United Nations estimates that half of Luika’s population has been forced to leave and nearly 90,000 people from Kayah State have fled. Local media estimated the number of displaced people at more than 170,000.

In Loikaw, opposition fighters seized abandoned churches and homes. A local policeman also said that they were forced to open the prison doors in an attempt to get the detainees to join them.

Burma has been in chaos since the February 1, 2021 military coup that ousted Aung San Suu Kyi and ended a decade of democratization.

Rebel groups, often made up of citizens, took up arms against the junta and fighting has intensified in the east of the country since the end of the monsoons and the arrival of the dry season.

On Christmas Eve, in Kayah State, at least 35 people were killed, their bodies cremated, in a massacre blamed on the military.

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The UN Special Rapporteur on Burma, Tom Andrews, urged junta leader Min Aung Hlaing to “stop air and ground attacks” on Luikaw and “allow the passage of humanitarian aid”.

Since the coup, the international community has not had much room to try to resolve the crisis. The junta turns a deaf ear to the calls of the United Nations and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

While the health and humanitarian situation is critical, the army is preventing the delivery of aid and medical supplies to areas where resistance is strong, according to the NGO Human Rights Watch.

Security forces have killed more than 1,400 civilians since the coup and arrested more than 11,000, according to a local NGO.