The victims, who included two children, were among hundreds sheltering at a local monastery in the southern Shan State town
Shelling by junta forces killed four internally displaced persons (IDPs) in southern Shan State’s Pekhon Township on Friday, according to local sources.
The victims, who were among some 300 people sheltering at a monastery in the town of Moebye, included two sisters aged 7 and 10 and two men in their 50s.
A statement released by a local social welfare group said that the incident occurred at around 6am on Friday, when an artillery shell landed on the Mwe Daw Monastery in Moebye’s Myoma Ward. All four of the deceased died instantly, the group said.
According to a resident of the town, at least 13 others were seriously injured.
“They were staying there because they thought it would be safe, as there hadn’t been any clashes in that area. But the military has been firing shells at random. I could hear guns going off all last night, but it has calmed down again now,” said the local, who did not want to be identified.
Moebye residents say that junta troops have been shelling relentlessly since being forced to retreat from the town on September 11 following four days of fighting that resulted in heavy regime casualties.
According to one source, junta forces appear to be trying to inflict as much damage as possible after at least 60 soldiers were killed by a coalition of anti-regime groups while stationed inside a church in Moebye’s Pwel Kone Ward.
“The shells they’re using now are not the usual kind. These ones detonate two or three times, so it’s very concerning,” said the source.
Moebye, which is located near the border with Karenni (Kayah) State, has a population of around 30,000, according to the 2014 census. However, relief groups estimate that around a third of its inhabitants have been displaced by recent fighting.
There are growing fears that the town could see a massive influx of junta soldiers like Demoso, some 25km to the south in Karenni State, where hundreds of reinforcements were sent last month to consolidate regime control.
“We don’t know yet if it will become like Demoso. It all depends on what the military decides to do next,” said one local.
A building in Moebye destroyed by Myanmar army shelling (Myanmar Now)
A spokesperson for the Kayan Rescue Committee (KRC) said that while some residents have returned to their homes, many were unable to do so due to the ongoing clashes and the destruction of at least 100 houses by the junta forces’ heavy weapon attacks.
“Many locals just decide to stay out in the fields rather than return to their villages. Even people living in the wards that haven’t seen any fighting don’t feel safe anymore,” said the KRC spokesperson.
He added that high fuel and commodity prices have also added to the hardships of IDPs.
“Many of the organizations that had been providing food and other supplies have stopped operating. Moebye used to be a bustling commercial area, but everything’s so difficult now due to the war,” he said.
More than 200,000 ethnic Karenni civilians have been displaced by clashes in Karenni State and parts of southern Shan State since fighting began in the region last year, according to the Karenni Civil Society Network.