Thousands of Yaw villagers hungry and homeless as junta intensifies attacks 

Thousands of displaced people are stranded in makeshift camps in upper Myanmar’s Yaw region and in dire need of food and medication, according to people who have fled their homes and volunteer aid workers. 

Some 10,000 people from several villages along the Gangaw-Kalay road have fled their homes since September as junta soldiers have sought to root out People’s Defence Force (PDF) fighters. 

“Some people don’t have a home to go to anymore… They’re our first priority here,” said a volunteer from the Yaw Region Committee for Internally Displaced People.  

“Then there are those who are just temporarily displaced due to a military column passing through their villages. They’re going to stay here temporarily and will go back to their homes when it’s safe,” he said.

“We haven’t received any support from any outside organisations other than donations from local neighbourhoods,” he added.

Over 3,000 people are sheltering in five camps after soldiers burned hundreds of homes in the area in recent weeks, he said. 

The junta has suffered heavy casualties in fighting with resistance groups in Yaw, which covers the townships of Gangaw, Kyaw, Htilin, Kyaukhtu and Saw.

Civilians have paid a heavy toll amid the fighting and have repeatedly been targeted in retaliatory attacks by junta soldiers. 

A 48-year-old woman from San Myo said soldiers and members of the military-backed Pyu Saw Htee group assaulted the village from the north and south and robbed and torched houses last month.

“Even those who didn’t lose their houses in the fire lost everything else since the military robbed them of all they owned and carried their belongings away on military trucks,” she said.

Her house was among 36 destroyed by the arson attack, and she is among 500 San Myo villagers taking shelter at a camp, she added. 

“Our village has a lot of manpower but we don’t have any weapons, so we have no choice but to leave everything behind,” she said.

A 30-year-old woman said that her family was now living in a farmhouse along with three other families a few miles away from San Myo village.

“We are surrounded in all directions and the only exit is in the south. We need supplies of preserved food the most as we can’t transport it easily,” she said. “We also need blankets.”

“We just want this revolution to be successful as soon as possible,” she added. “We are literally living in enemy territory. We can’t even sleep at night. It’s getting very cold in the woods and I’m really worried about the old people.”

The military has been preparing for further assaults in Yaw region and is building helipads in Kyaw township near a factory, according to the information officer of the Yaw Defence Force (YDF). 

An anti-dictatorship demonstration in Gangaw Township early last year (CJ)

Several helicopters were seen landing in villages dominated by Pyu Saw Htee late last month after military air raids, he added. 

“I think they are going to launch an airstrike against us. We’re expecting a massive use of air force as there is no way they can beat us on land,” he said. 

The military is torching villages in order to “cut off supplies to the local defence forces,” he added. 

“They want the civilians to be displaced so that they will end up using up the supplies that were meant for the defence forces,” he said. 

The mountains of Yaw region are strategically important because they connect the Chin hills with the northwestern Sagaing, both of which are strongholds of armed anti-junta forces. 


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