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More than 10,000 civilians have fled military raids on Kanbalu township in Myanmar’s Sagaing region in recent days, while fighting between junta troops and ethnic rebels has displaced another 10,000 from Chin state’s Paletwa township since the new year, sources said Friday.

The evacuations are the latest by residents of rural Myanmar caught in the crossfire of widespread conflict that has engulfed the country since the military’s Feb. 1, 2021, coup d’etat.

On Thursday, junta troops raided and burned the Kanbalu villages of Tha Yet Kone, Koe Myo and Taunt Te Kone, before moving to nearby Min Kone village on Friday and setting several homes on fire, residents told RFA Burmese.

An official with the People’s Administration Committee in Kanbalu township, located around 240 kilometers (150 miles) north of the city of Mandalay, said that troops had torched 31 houses in Tha Yet Kone, but was unclear about the situation in the other villages, as military units remained in the area.

“This morning, smoke was still rising from the burning villages,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to security concerns. “It is the harvest season, and the farmers had to leave their crops. The rice was also set on fire. We had to take carts and cattle and run away from the area with whatever we could grab.”

The official noted that on Wednesday, Kanbalu township’s anti-junta People’s Defense Force, or PDF, paramilitaries attacked Tin Ngoke Gyi village, where members of the military-backed Pyu Saw Htee militia were based, and seized some weapons.

Residents said that on Thursday morning, a 120-strong column of junta troops and Py Saw Htee fighters carried out raids on the villages near Tin Ngoke Gyi.

Beginning that same morning, junta troops from the No. 6006 Armored Battalion marched to reinforce the military and Pyu Saw Htee column in Tin Ngoke Gyi, causing more than 10,000 residents from 11 villages in Kanbalu to flee their homes in fear, the official from the township’s People’s Administrative Committee said.

When asked about the raids in Kanbalu, Sai Naing Naing Kyaw, the junta’s ethnic affairs minister for Sagaing region, told RFA that he could not provide details about the situation.

Clashes displace residents

Meanwhile, clashes between the military and ethnic Rakhine rebels known as the Arakan Army, or AA, have forced more than 10,000 residents of Chin state’s Paletwa to flee their homes since early January, according to Salai Myo Htike, an official with the Paletwa Autonomous District Council.

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Displaced people from Chin state’s Paletwa township in Myanmar make their way across a waterway in Jan. 2024. (Salai Myo Htike)

The clashes are taking place in and around the seat of the township, while the military has carried out airstrikes in the area, he said in an interview on Friday, adding that details of the fighting were unavailable as telecommunications had been cut.

“Phone service is no longer available in Paletwa,” he said. “Military aircraft have been bombing the area and I know that houses have been burned down, but I don’t know the details. There are some people left in the town, but we’ve had to flee and can’t get in contact with them.”

Aid workers told RFA that there is an urgent need for food and medicine for the displaced.

Attempts by RFA to reach Aung Cho, the junta secretary of Chin state, for comment on the matter went unanswered Friday.

Between the coup and December 2023, more than 100,000 people have been displaced by fighting in Chin state to other parts of Myanmar or across the border to surrounding countries, the Institute of Chin Affairs recently told RFA.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported on Wednesday that there have been more than 2.5 million people displaced by conflict across Myanmar since the military takeover three years ago.

Translated by Htin Aung Kyaw. Edited by Joshua Lipes and Malcolm Foster.


This content originally appeared on Radio Free Asia and was authored by By RFA Burmese.