Over 280,000 displaced in expanding Myanmar clashes: UN

In this photo taken on 23 November, 2023 people rest in a monastery that has turn into a temporary shelter for internally displaced people (IDPs) at a village in Pauktaw township in Myanmar's western Rakhine StateAFP

More than 286,000 people in Myanmar have been displaced so far by recent fighting between the junta and ethnic groups, the UN said Wednesday, describing it as the biggest escalation since the 2021 coup.

"Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that intense fighting between ethnic armed organizations and the Myanmar Armed Forces continues and has expanded into more areas, including densely populated urban centres," said Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

"This escalation is the largest and most geographically widespread since the 2021 military takeover," he added, noting that the worst affected areas were in Shan, Sagaing, Kayah, Rakhine and southern Chin states.

"As of yesterday, more than 286,000 people have been displaced since the escalation of fighting on October 26, with this number continuing to climb," he said.

Fighting broke out at the end of October in the north of Shan state, close to the Chinese border, where three ethnic minority groups coordinated an attack against the central military power.

The Arakan Army, which is part of this alliance, then launched an offensive last week in Rakhine in the west, at the same time as clashes were raging in Kayah in the east, not far from the Thai border, between anti-junta fighters and the army.

"The security situation in Rakhine remains alarming, particularly in Pauktaw Township where some 20,000 people have fled to safer locations since the middle of this month," said Haq.

Entry points to the town have been closed and it is no longer accessible, he said, leaving hundreds of people trapped.

In addition some 26,000 Rohingya in five refugee camps in Pauktaw cannot be reached, he said.

With more than two million people now displaced in Myanmar, Haq called for urgent funding for humanitarian aid.