Plight of Displaced Kachin Worsens, Aid Groups Warn

Refugees from Kachin State cook meals at a temporary camp by the Chinese border in May last year. (Photo: Reuters)

Refugees from Kachin State cook meals at a temporary camp by the Chinese border in May last year. (Photo: Reuters)

The health of tens of thousands of villagers displaced by the Kachin conflict is quickly deteriorating due to a severe shortage of aid supplies such as food, blankets and medicine, local relief groups warned, adding that the recent escalation in the fighting between Kachin rebels and the Burmese government is terrifying villagers and affecting their safety.

“The food security situation is very serious and the political situation is very tense,” said La Rip, coordinator of the Relief Action Network for IDPs and Refugees (RANIR), which coordinates aid for the displaced ethnic Kachin in Laiza, a town in a valley on the Burma-China border.

“There are more than 15,000 people in four camps around Laiza. They are really short on food supplies. But all other camps are also short on assistance,” he told The Irrawaddy by telephone on Friday.

The fighting between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Burmese government erupted in June 2011 after a 1994 ceasefire broke down. Kachin rebels demand more autonomy but the government wants to control the resource-rich ethnic region.

An estimated 100,000 Kachin villagers have since fled the violence. They now stay in 17 camps in rebel-held areas along Burma’s mountainous northern border, which China has closed off for refugees.

Local relief groups are struggling to support the villagers as aid supplies have been running low since last month. The groups have not received any international support since July, when the Burmese government cut off UN access to the area. Meanwhile, severe winter cold has also set in.

“The UN cannot access the IDPs [internally displaced persons] along the border, and the local aid agencies cannot address the needs here by themselves,” La Rip said, adding that villagers’ health was deteriorating due to insufficient supply of food and other necessities during their long stay in the camps.

“The situation is becoming worse… They’re only getting rice and salt, not any food supplements. We are concerned about the impacts of this on pregnant women, lactating mothers and young children,” La Rip said, adding that a survey in October found that a third of all young children were already undernourished.

Mary Tauwn, a relief worker from Wun Tawng Ningtwey (Light of the Kachin People) said the aid group lacked supplies for the six camps that it supports, while food and other items were expensive and scarce because all local roads were blocked.

“We can just provide for basic food stuffs like rice, salt and garlic. Some IDPs ask us: ‘Can you provide us some meat for nutrition?’ But we cannot,” she said, adding that villagers also required more clothing, blankets and medicine during the winter cold.

To make matters worse, fighting between Burmese government and Kachin guerrillas has intensified recently, with the Burmese military launching airstrikes with helicopter gunships and fighter jets in the strategically important Lajayang area, close to the KIA headquarters in Laiza. Ground fighting has reportedly also worsened in many areas.

La Rip said the intensification in the fighting was endangering villagers, for example when they go to inspect their village crops, while people in Laiza valley were deeply concerned as the fighting draws closer and jets bombed the surrounding mountains.

“Local people mostly stay home—normal life is crippled,” he said. “People are very scared that the government might take Laiza and there will be indiscriminate bombing and shelling.”

Mary Tauwn said that in Mai Ja Yang—an area north of Laiza, where Wun Tawng Ningtwey is based—ground fighting was getting closer. “Since [Thursday] morning we can hear mortar shells falling here. Some of the IDPs are frightened,” she said.

RANIR and other Kachin groups are now calling for immediate international support for the displaced. The groups sent out an appeal on Dec. 27 and on Thursday they sent a request for help to the Geneva headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross. The letter warned of “daily escalation of attacks,” AP reported.

“The situation is very urgent and we need to settle this issue,” La Rip said, explaining that if international aid could not reach rebel-controlled camps by road, then it should be provided to local relief groups, which could find ways to distribute it in the camps.

“I also urge the government to allow international aid to come in again and to end the fighting unconditionally,” he added.

International criticism of the Kachin conflicts has grown recently and the use of airpower by the Burmese government has caused particular concern. The US and UK governments, along with the UN, called on the warring parties this week to open negotiations and to allow international aid into Kachin-held camps.

12 Responses to Plight of Displaced Kachin Worsens, Aid Groups Warn

  1. UN and US must find the way to open the route to the Kachin IDPs who have been effectively cut off and starved by the Burmese Genocidal Regime. Please help Kachins before the image of the civilized world is tarnished once again by this brutal barbaric Regime of Burma.

    • Educate yourself before asking UN and US for help. Look around the world of what they have done so far. Vietnam war, Middle East, WMD, Afghanistan, you can add more to make sense of what they done to the world. The more they get involved the more your suffering will get worsen. They have already done enough damages between the people of Myanmar since before Independence. Not to forget pointing finger at one direction without looking at the root of the problem way back in the history.

  2. Heartless as they are, even the international business communities and their representatives-governments led by the Yanks- can not conscionable-ly starve the civilians to death as their death itself will not stop the war either,. Rather it will incite more desperate and more widespread retaliation. Starving them and hoping oofr rebellion of the people against the fighters will not happen as the aggressor is plain in sight thin this one.

    • Have you ever been to the place now occupied by Yanks? Where are the people actually owned this land.? How many of them are left and how many of them were systematically murdered and displaced out of the country?

      • Sorry Bill, Long winding sentences.

        The sentence meant not that the US was good but that US which does not have conscience must have agreement and understanding for Thein Sein fronted Sit-tut so thay can be blatant about this urgent killing orgy. But could they spare the suffering of the people of Kachin Land as 1. the Kachin public are NOT likely to rise up against the KIA. 2. Their death will not finish off the KIA either.

        Current effort is to get Liaza in the mistaken belief that that will keep them on track again for papa Chinese’ Pipe and restarting the Dam. Chinese never visit people in authority with empty hands by the way.

        And it is more than clear the Yanks and the United Nations have nothing to say except silent wish that it is quick and more importantly quiet. Judging by personal involvement of Soros, who is 82 and earned 3.2 billion in 2009 alone while other hedge funds were losing, in Kachin affair it appears that the wish to connect the Chinese with Burma’s coast or India as beautifully described by Thant Myint-U is desired by all the important business community of the world for whom the people present on the land they want are simple dirt to be brushed off.

        So the point was such brushing off using such devastating arsenals made in Singapore, Sweden and Russia are not conscionable and for condoning such acts, not only happily deluded Burmese public but also the public of America should look into their government’s collusion with the butchers. That’s all in short.

  3. The treatment we receive from our stepbrothers and sisters is unbearable. Our prayers and thoughts are with you. One day we will be free from the bondage of stepbrothers and stepsisters.

      • Ethnic Burmans are the dominant population and have tended to discount ethnic minority demands in the past. Consequently, Burma’s ethnic nationalities worry that they will continue to be marginalized if their concerns are not addressed in conjunction with the struggle for democracy. Meanwhile, in order to prevent ethnic political forces and the pro-democracy movement from collaborating, Burma’s generals have tried to limit contact between the two groups.

      • Your daddy is Ne Win/Than Shwe. You’re fake brother of the Kachins.

  4. The BIGGEST point being missed among to and fro arguments and exhortations is that whatever is the reason, whoever is at fault, NO ONE has to suffer. Repeat NO ONE has to suffer.

    Any prosperity or any thing at all built on suffering of even one soul- ONE SOUL will DESTROY the soul of the perpetrator, or the nation of perpetrators.

    Forced Suffering is simply end of humanity, End of intelligence. End of decency and end of all of us.

    It is the duty of all, including the International Money Lenders, all human to stop, STOP any one inflicting Forced Sufferings. we got enough natural disasters already. But man-made disaster still bet them.

    • Good to suggest that to “STOP”. It should start from the beginning and all involved. Some are still watching on this atrocity directly involved by both side. They will never intervene to end this conflict as they have numerous plans to create more instability in this country. Only way to overcome this issue is to find who really is helping or creating more rift between the people of this country. They need to educate themselves and work it out what they will achieve after all.

  5. Is Kachinland becoming Darfur of Sudan? Heartbreaking indeed.

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