The United Nations expressed concern on Monday about “fierce fighting” between the army and an alliance of ethnic minority groups in northern Myanmar, which it said had caused “civilian casualties” and the violent displacement of more than 30,000 civilians. .

“We are concerned about the heavy fighting, especially in Shan State, in the north of the country, where there are reports of artillery fire and airstrikes that have caused civilian casualties,” Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman for General Secretary of the UN, without going into details.

The hostilities resulted in “tens of thousands” of additional people being internally displaced, while “hundreds” crossed the border, he added.

According to “colleagues in humanitarian organizations, since October 26, almost 33,000 men, women and children have been displaced, which increases humanitarian needs,” Mr. Dujarric pointed out, citing figures from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recalls that “civilians must be protected” in armed conflicts, Mr. Dujarric insisted, while calling on the parties to guarantee “unhindered access” to humanitarian aid.

Fighting has escalated in the past week across large swaths of northern Myanmar’s Shan state, near the border with China.

Armed groups said on Saturday they had seized dozens of military outposts and four cities, blocking important trade routes to China.

A few days earlier, a spokesman for the military junta described as “propaganda” claims that rebel groups had seized towns in Shan State.

More than ten ethnic minority armed groups operate in what was once Burma, especially in border areas; they demand greater political autonomy, control of more natural resources, or claim a share of the proceeds from smuggling of various kinds.

Some of them trained and armed armed groups opposing the 2021 military regime that overthrew the civilian government under Aung San Suu Kyi. The junta indulged in bloody repression after the coup.

Fighting in the north has been described as an unprecedented threat to Myanmar’s military since the February 1, 2021 coup.