This photo taken on Aug. 25 shows a man, injured during clashes between the military and ethnic rebel groups, being attended to in Kutkai hospital in Myanmar's Shan State. (Photo by Ye Aung Thu/AFP)
Two young children were among five Kachin Baptist Christians killed by fighting between armed ethnic groups and the Myanmar military in Shan State.
A 9-year-old boy and 4-month-old girl were among the five killed by three mortar shells that hit Mawhit village in Kutkai township on Aug. 31. The dead came from two families. Several others were also injured, according to local aid workers.
It is unclear whether the mortars were fired by either the Myanmar military or one of three northern alliance groups — the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, Arakan Army or the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army.
Fighting has spread to several townships in the northern state following coordinated attacks by three groups from the alliance on military and police posts on Aug. 15.
Mai Mai from the Humanitarian Strategic Team-Northern Shan State, a local civil society group, said two other civilians have also been killed since fighting renewed.
The fighting has also resulted in the displacement of thousands of people, many of whom have taken refuge at churches and monasteries.
Mai Mai told ucanews.com that it is not safe for the displaced to return to their homes. She added that many of those who did not flee their homes are currently in a precarious position.
“Thousands of villagers between Kutkai and Muse townships are trapped by the conflict,” Mai Mai told ucanews.com.
The civilian deaths from the mortar attack occurred on the same day as peace talks were held. Government peace negotiators met with representatives from the three northern alliance groups plus the Kachin Independence Army to discuss ways to end the fighting, but no agreement was made.
Both sides have agreed to meet again in mid-September.
Meanwhile, the Myanmar military has extended its unilateral ceasefire in northern and eastern Myanmar until Sept. 21 to assist with peace negotiations. The military declared a ceasefire in northern and eastern Myanmar on Dec. 21 that was due to end on Aug. 31.
The ceasefire has not included Rakhine State where fighting between the military and the Arakan Army has been ongoing.
The government of State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi is trying to end Myanmar’s decades-long conflicts but has not yet found a way to bring peace to the ethnic regions of Rakhine and Shan states.