Displaced to Tanai by Fighting, Kachin IDPs Are Told to Leave Once Again

By Nyein Nyein 9 June 2017

Township authorities have reportedly forced those seeking refuge from fighting in Tanai town to Kawng Ra village, some ten miles away, despite continued clashes between the Burma Army and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in the vicinity.

About 300 displaced villagers are currently taking shelter temporarily at churches and monasteries in Tanai town, but were told by the township administrative office that they must move to Kawng Ra by Thursday, June 8, according to relief workers.

On the evening of June 6, more than 400 people arrived in Tanai from N’Ga Ga and Nam Byu villages to seek shelter. Around a quarter—domestic migrants who came to work in amber and gold mines—have already returned to their homes. But villagers residing in the area have had no place to go back to. There are also reports of anywhere from hundreds to thousands of villagers being halted from onward travel to Tanai, and are stuck at jetties along the Tanai tributary.

U Naw Tar from the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) in Tanai said that the refugees do not want to move once again, so KBC has presented their wishes to local officials and requested that they be allowed to remain in the town.

“They fled to the town as there is no safety for them in their villages. They say they won’t go to Kawng Ra village, and that they are still afraid, as three villagers were recently wounded by an artillery shell,” U Naw Tar said.

Kachin State parliamentarians have urged the Union parliamentarians representing the state to raise an urgent proposal about the issue in the legislature so that action can be taken.

However, there is no discussion at the Union parliament until Friday, and some lawmakers say that it is not easy to immediately put forward such an issue. “Whatever issue we raise related to the Kachin war has been rejected,” said a legislator from the state, who spoke under the condition of anonymity.

U Nawng Na Ja Tan, an upper house lawmaker from Kachin State Constituency (4), which includes Tanai, said the villagers are facing great difficulties regarding movement, as he is in communication with people on the ground.

They have not been able to leave their villages, particularly those working in amber and gold mines, using the short route, the lawmaker said.

“The easiest waterway to Tanai is forbidden to travel on, and they have to go around, using a longer alternative route to get there, which requires a payment of about 40,000 kyats. There are many who could not afford to pay, so they are stuck,” U Nawng Na Ja Tan said.

“And they are told to go to Kawng Ra, where the fighting is happening, even today,” he said, adding that “Kawng Ra villagers are scared to continue staying in their village,” as fighting happened between Kawng Ra and Nam Hpat Yan villages at around 2 p.m. on Friday.

Fighting continued on the sixth anniversary of the resumption of armed conflict in Kachin State, which has been ongoing since June 9, 2011 between the Tatmadaw and the KIA in northern Burma.

Despite a lack of freedom of movement in Tanai Township, around ten villages where the amber and gold mines are located have been warned by the Tatamdaw to evacuate no later than June 15.

At the time of publication, Tanai township administrators could not be reached for comments on villagers’ restricted freedom of movement or issues surrounding temporary resettlement.