MAGWAY, Myanmar - Following an escalating conflict between the Myanmar military and the local People's Defence Force (PDF) in the last week, more than 2,000 people from three villages in Magway Region's Saw Township were forced to leave their homes.
Internally displaced people (IDPs) are from communities along the road that connects Saw and Kyaukhtu.
According to the Saw PDF, gunfire was first exchanged between the PDF and the military on November 17 near Tawma and Kyinlein, resulting in severe losses on the junta's side.
In retaliation, the military dispatched two MI 35 helicopters, firing automatic weapons against the positions of the PDF.
Residents from the three closest villages - Tawma, Kyinlein, and Thalel - fled as the fighting became more intense.
According to a displaced man, over 1,000 people from Kyinlein, including children and the elderly, have taken refuge in the adjacent woodlands.
He claimed that another 1,000 individuals from Tawma and Thalel had also fled their homes.
"We have been moving from one place to another any time we hear about the military coming into the woods. We haven't even been able to sleep well," he added that food supplies were limited, and the locals were picking edible plants and drinking water from creeks and streams to survive. As a result, several kids are said to have become sick.
Those who were unable to flee sought protection in the Kyinlein monastery until junta troops arrived on Sunday and ordered them to return home.
According to a Saw PDF officer, the soldiers threatened that everyone found in the woodlands would be considered insurgents and shot.