More Than 1,000 New IDPs Reported in Kachin State

By Thu Thu Aung 14 August 2017

YANGON — More than 1,000 locals abandoned their homes and have sought refuge at Baptist and Catholic churches in Namti, Kachin State, due to fighting between the Myanmar military and the Kachin Independence Organization/Army (KIO/A).

The displacement followed clashes near Kasung village with KIA Battalion 11 on Thursday and a reported raid by the Myanmar Army on the area the next day.

Kasung is located about 15 miles from Namti town in Mogaung Township, Kachin State.

La Mai Seng Awng, a religious leader from the Kachin Baptist Church told The Irrawaddy that 593 internally displaced people (IDPs) had come to the church seeking food and shelter.

“The IDPs arrived in Namti first,” he said. “They witnessed skirmishes between the military and the KIO that happened in the village.”

According to a statement made by a coalition of humanitarian groups in Kachin State known as the Joint Strategy Team for Humanitarian Response (JST), about 700 people arrived Namti village by Friday. Later, more than 300 villagers were assisted in escaping from Kasung and Zup Mai Yang villages by a team involving Baptist and Catholic Church leaders, the Peace Creation Group, Myanmar Red Cross Society, and Myanmar Rescue Myitkyina on Sunday, August 13.

The JST has raised concern for the safety and security of the IDPs and civilians in conflict-affected areas and school-aged children’s education.

“The danger of a flu outbreak, and [other] health concerns remains high among IDPs, especially for children and many elderly, and those with chronic diseases,” the coalition said in its statement. “It is also important to ensure that the displaced school children are provided with psychosocial support and are able to continue schooling while in Namti before they are able to return.”

On Sunday, government leaders including the minister of Kachin State’s Department of Social Welfare visited IDPs in the churches and met with the community leaders.

The Roman Catholic Church leader Lagyi La Ja told The Irrawaddy that the government had promised to arrange for the schooling of displaced children in Namti until they were able to return home.

The Roman Catholic Church in Namti is serving as a host site to more than 400 refugees.

JST secretary Gum Sha Awng told The Irrawaddy that locals’ safety should remain the “first priority” for all stakeholders in the crisis.

“We already have over 100,000 IDPs who haven’t gotten a chance to return to their original places. Their future is extremely vulnerable,” he said of those who have been displaced since a long-term ceasefire between the KIA and Myanmar Army broke down in 2011.

Church members, the JST, international NGOs, UN agencies and the government have provided emergency assistance including food, hygiene materials and blankets to the displaced.

In June, around 1,000 villagers were displaced in Kachin State’s Tanai Township, and have, as of yet, been unable to return home.