Thousands displaced by fighting, airstrikes near Kalay

Residents of at least six villages have been forced to flee after the regime unleashed both air and artillery assaults in response to an attack by local defence teams

Clashes that broke out between regime and resistance forces near the town of Kalay in Sagaing Region earlier this week have forced around 5,000 locals to flee their homes.

The fighting started early Tuesday morning after local defence teams in Thar Si, a village located near the entrance to the town,  launched an attack on a junta column of around 60 soldiers, sources in the area told Myanmar Now.

The military responded by carrying out airstrikes on the village, according to a defence team member.

“The soldiers withdrew after retrieving the bodies of their dead, and then a jet came and opened fire for about an hour. Some houses in Thar Si were also torched,” he said.

“Since then, they have been firing heavy artillery at villages in the southern part of the township night and day,” he added.

At least two civilians were confirmed injured by the junta assaults. However, Myanmar Now was unable to obtain complete casualty figures at the time of reporting.

In June, regime shelling killed six civilians—including three children under the age of 10—in the same area, according to records kept by the Kalay Region Supporting Centre (KRSC), a local relief organisation.

On Wednesday, an officer belonging to the group said that junta reinforcements had arrived in the area and appeared to be preparing for further attacks.

“They’ve been firing heavy artillery at Thar Si since morning. Tensions are still rising,” said the KRSC officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Residents of several other villages in the area, including Kyauk Kone, Thone Eain Hsu, Lay Eain Hsu, Chin Hseng, and Zin Ka Lin, have also been forced to flee due to the ongoing battles, he added.

Meanwhile, villages controlled by the pro-junta Pyu Saw Htee militia are also facing hardships, according to a Kalay-based Buddhist monk.

In a written plea to the military that has been shared online, the monk claimed that some 7,000 households in a dozen villages in Kalay and neighbouring Gangaw Township in Magway Region are in desperate need of food and fuel, which have both been in short supply for the past six months due to the conflict.

According to the latest estimates released by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 1.6 million people have been displaced by fighting in Myanmar since the military seized power in a coup in February 2021. Of these, more than 760,000 have been in Sagaing Region alone.

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