Locals trapped in Moebye forced to work for junta troops

Civilians unable to flee the southern Shan State town of Moebye ahead of the return of regime forces on Sunday are now being forced to work for the occupying soldiers, according to locals.

The town, which has been sealed off since early Monday following the arrival of about 150 junta troops with tanks the day before, is now virtually deserted, sources there said.

“It appears they’re taking control of everything. According to information given to us by the authorities, the military said they wouldn’t shoot anyone unless they’re shot at first,” a member of a local social welfare group told Myanmar Now.

Among those trapped in the town are novice monks and internally displaced persons (IDPs) sheltering at the Mwe Daw and Set Taw Yar monasteries.

According to the social welfare worker, these people are now being forced to cook and clean for the soldiers stationed at the monasteries.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the Moebye People’s Defence Force said that civilians in the town are also being used as human shields.

A Moebye resident who spoke to an escapee from the Mwe Daw monastery said that IDPs are subjected to thorough searches whenever they return to their homes for food.

“She said that they are forced to cook for the soldiers, who warn them not to try to escape,” said the man, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The exact number of people detained in the monasteries was unclear, according to the social welfare worker.

“We don’t know the exact figure yet because some of the soldiers are in plain clothes, so we can’t tell for sure who’s a soldier and who’s a hostage,” he said.

The latest fighting in Moebye started in early September, forcing most of the town’s nearly 30,000 inhabitants to flee. Since then, at least 100 houses have been destroyed by shelling, according to resistance sources.

While no clashes were reported on Tuesday, the military was still shelling villages to the southwest of the town, sources there said.

Junta troops were forced to retreat from the area early last week after facing heavy losses during four days of fighting triggered by an earlier attempt to take control of the town.

Last Friday, heavy shelling killed four IDPs at the Mwe Daw monastery.

According to resistance groups based in the area, the military is concentrating its efforts on controlling the road linking Moebye to Demoso in neighbouring Karenni (Kayah) State. 

In a statement released on Monday, the Karenni Nationalities Defence Force said that civilians living in villages along this road were also being used as human shields.

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