Government Blocking Aid to Kachin IDP Camps: KIO

By Yen Saning & Nang Seng Nom 5 December 2014

RANGOON — Camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) near Laiza, the headquarters of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), are facing a shortage of food supplies amid reported restrictions on UN and NGOs’ humanitarian aid deliveries.

Kachin IDPs have seen food stocks dwindle in recent weeks as humanitarian aid has been blocked by the Burmese government, according to Doi Be Za, chair of the KIO’s IDPs and Refugees Relief Committee.

Doi Be Za, who is also a member of the KIO central committee, said: “The UN and NGOs told us that they will come in October. To date, they have not arrived. Now we are surviving with the help of local donors. The government has suspended the UN and NGOs’ permission to come to Laiza, citing security reasons.”

It was not immediately clear if aid deliveries were being denied in relation to an incident on Nov. 19 in which a KIO military academy near Laiza was shelled by the Burma Army, killing 23 cadets.

There are more than 20 IDP camps under KIO management, with an estimated total population of 50,000 people living in them, according to Doi Be Za’s committee.

“The UN told us that they would come in early November but they didn’t come,” said Mary Tawn, head of the humanitarian NGO Wunpawng Ningtoi, based in Mai Ja Yang, Kachin State. “The government has closed the road for security reasons. Now, in the Laiza refugee camps, there is a shortage of basic groceries like rice, oil, salt and peas.”

With IDP camps that in some cases are more than three years old, deteriorating conditions are beginning to take their toll on inhabitants. Some IDPs in Panwar, at a camp more than 10,000 feet above sea level known as Border Post 8, struggle to keep water from freezing and face other difficulties associated with the rugged frontier, Mary Tawn said.

Doi Be Za said as winter approaches, humanitarian aid groups face increasing difficulties in sending rations to Border Posts 6, 7 and 8, which are along the China Border. He said the IDPs are in urgent need of warm clothes, and are also fearful because their camps are sited in close proximity to Burma Army bases.

The UN estimates that more than 100,000 people have been displaced since fighting resumed between the KIO’s armed wing, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), and government forces in 2011. They are living in temporary camps across Kachin State, some of which are administered by the government and others managed by the KIO.