MUSE, BURMA --- Troops from Burma's military operating in northern Shan state set an internally displaced person's (IDP) camp on fire on Wednesday. The camp located near Pangsai was almost completely destroyed according to eyewitnesses who described the perpetrators as being from the army's Infantry Battalion No. 240.
The camp situated close to the Burma-China border was serving as a temporary home for families displaced by fighting between the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and the army. Those living at the camp were from the nearby villages of Kawng Sahte, Hpai Kawng, Kawng Ra and Hka Leng.
While some refugees from Pangsai have fled to China doing so is increasingly risky. According to local aid groups Chinese authorities have since August deported an estimated 6,000 refugees back to Burma.
The burning of the IDP camp appears to have been carried out in retaliation for casualties the Burma army unit suffered earlier on in the day at the hands of the KIO affiliated civilian militia, the Mungshawa Hpyen Hpung (MHH). At least 10 soldiers were killed and an additional 6 were injured during the clashes which took place Tuesday morning at the largely abandoned Hpai Kawng village, according to Zau Seng, an officer from the MHH. The MHH whose name translates as the People's Army is made up local villagers, MHH units often fight alongside Kachin Independence Army (KIA) troops.
At least 20 men from Hpai Kawng village were detained by government troops earlier this week. According to area residents the arrested villagers are being held at the local Kachin Baptist church which is now occupied by the army.