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Thousands flee as fighting erupts in Myanmar

Catholic agency monitors situation as at least 1,600 people take refuge in monasteries in Shan State

Thousands flee as fighting erupts in Myanmar

Internally displaced mother Seng Moon, fleeing renewed fighting between Myanmar's army and ethnic insurgents in the country's remote north, waits in a temporary shelter with her children in Danai, Kachin State, on May 12. The conflict has spread into neighboring Shan State. (Photo by Ye Aung Thu/AFP)

At least 1,600 people have fled their homes and taken refuge at monasteries after fighting erupted among ethnic armed groups in Myanmar's Shan State.

More than 700 people are sheltering at two monasteries in Namtu and 900 at another monastery in Lashio due to fighting that started on Oct. 24 between the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) and allied troops of the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Shan State Progressive Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA).

Zau Tan from Karuna Myanmar (Caritas) said villagers fled their homes when fighting started near their villages.

"I heard that some people have returned to their homes but I am still following up on the numbers of returnees," Zau Tan told ucanews.com.

Karuna is monitoring the situation to see whether villagers are temporarily displaced or stay longer.

Mg Mg Than, a volunteer from Lashio who helps displaced persons at Mansu monastery, said about 900 people arrived at the monastery on Oct. 29.

"The government's Social Welfare Ministry is providing cash and a variety of food and non-food items to the people and private donors are also contributing cash," Mg Mg Than told ucanews.com.

Among the displaced people are ethnic Lisu, Lahu, Kokang and Chinese people and the majority are Buddhists.

Clashes continue to plague many ethnic-minority states in Myanmar, particularly in the northern, mainly Christian Kachin State. The conflict has spread into the northern part of neighboring Shan State.

Since hostilities resumed in 2011 following the breakdown of a 17-year ceasefire, more than 120,000 people have been forced to flee their homes and remain in camps.

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State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi pledged to end decades-long armed conflicts in the country but peace remains elusive and renewed clashes have undermined her peace initiatives.

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