Conflict displaces hundreds from Asho Chin villages near Magway-Rakhine border

After triggering explosives set by resistance forces, the junta raided and occupied nearby villages populated mostly by Asho people—a sub-tribe of the Chin ethnic group—forcing many to flee

Raids by junta troops in Mindon Township, Magway Region, in response to attacks by armed resistance groups have displaced hundreds of civilians from villages inhabited mostly by people of Asho ethnicity.

On August 23, resistance groups set explosives in the path of a column of army troops advancing west towards Ywar Thit, a village of around 100 households north of the Lamu River and some 10 miles east of the border with Rakhine State. 

After the junta column triggered the explosives, they exchanged gunfire with resistance fighters for around two hours, according to a spokesperson for Eagle Force, an anti-junta group operating as Battalion 4 of the Thayet District People’s Defence Forces that participated in the clash. 

In addition to members of the Eagle Force, the allied resistance groups that prepared the explosives for the August 23 ambush on the junta forces included the Student Armed Forces (SAF) and the Warriors of Liberation Force (WOLF).

As the battle ended with the retreat of the resistance forces, the junta column split into two groups, which proceeded towards Ywar Thit and Yin Kauk, another village with around 1,000 inhabitants some 8 miles to the northwest. 

More than 300 villagers fled the approaching junta forces from Ywar Thit and Nga Pyin, a small village of around 50 households outside Yin Kauk. All three villages are predominantly populated by Asho people, a sub-tribe of the Chin ethnic group. 

While most of Ywar Thit’s and Nga Pyin’s residents were able to escape, most of Yin Kauk’s inhabitants did not receive word in time and were trapped in the village when the junta forces arrived. 

“The Yin Kauk villagers didn’t have time to flee. The junta column came, ordered the villagers to gather in one place, and seized their phones. Now they are not allowed to go outside after 6pm,” the Eagle Force spokesperson said.

The junta troops also raided Ywar Thit and arrested five villagers who had been unable to flee. Details on the whereabouts and conditions of the detainees are as yet unavailable.

On August 24, more junta soldiers arriving in Ywar Thit as reinforcements triggered explosives set by the armed resistance groups, resulting in a number of casualties, according to the Eagle Force spokesperson. 

Myanmar Now has been unable to independently verify the junta casualty figures from the attacks on either day. 

Asho people, also sometimes called Asho Chin people, inhabit a number of townships in Magway Region such as Minbu, Thayet, Mindon, and Kamma as well as the townships of the Rakhine Yoma mountain range and along the Ayeyarwady River.

Located on the eastern side of the range, Mindon is a hilly township bordering the Rakhine State townships of Taungup and Ann. Most of Mindon Township’s residents are farmers.

According to information collected by the United Nations Office on the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, as of late July fighting and crises in Myanmar had forced more than 1.6 million people to flee their homes throughout the country. More than 200,000 of these internally displaced people had homes in Magway Region.

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