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More Kachin villagers flee as clashes intensify

Kachin villagers flee their homes in Ingyanyang as fighting intensifies. (PHOTO: The Kachin Times)

More than 5,000 Kachin civilians have abandoned their homes in recent weeks and are now sheltering in makeshift shelters in the jungle around Tanai, Hpakant and Injangyang townships as military clashes intensify between Burmese government forces and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), according to a local relief committee.

Speaking to DVB on Thursday, Naw Taung, vice chairman of the committee, said that Burmese troops had launched an offensive against the KIA in Injangyang, starting on 24 April, compelling about a thousand local civilians to abandon their homes and walk to nearby Tang Phare village, close to the site of the Myitsone dam.

“The numbers of IDPs [internally displaced persons] is increasing,” he said. “Local villagers are simply too afraid to stay in homes close to the fighting, because they can hear and feel the constant blasts of heavy artillery fire.”

In Tanai Township, northwestern Kachin State, some 2,000 persons from the villages of Sut Yang, Sut Ya and Awng Lawt fled to the forest beginning 11 April and are still camping rough. The local relief committee has called for urgent humanitarian access to these people.

An umbrella group comprising the signatures of 254 civil society organisations today sent an open letter to President Win Myint, urging him to arrange for humanitarian aid to be provided to the IDPs and to ensure their security.

Zau Jat, chairman of the Kachin National Social Development Foundation, told DVB that despite the calls for help, the state government and military in Tanai are insisting that the IDPs first return to their home villages.

“The military is refusing to allow these villagers to take shelter in Tanai town,” he said. “They are in dire trouble. We can only hope that the president will respond.”

According to a Reuters report today, citing a KIA spokesperson, the Burmese military has sent in about 2,000 infantry troops, as well as fighter aircraft and helicopters, to combat KIA forces.

Meanwhile, the US Embassy in Yangon released a statement on Friday, saying that it is “deeply concerned” about the intensified fighting in Kachin State.

“We urge all parties to cease fighting,” the statement read. “We call upon the government, including the military, to protect civilian populations and allow humanitarian assistance to be delivered to those affected by the conflicts.”