Elderly, Disabled Trapped Amid Kachin State Clashes

By Nan Lwin Hnin Pwint 24 September 2015

RANGOON — Twenty-two elderly and disabled civilians are trapped in their homes amid ongoing fighting between government troops and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in Mansi, Kachin State’s southernmost township.

Burma Army soldiers and the KIA have been engaged in hostilities in the area since Sept. 19, with locals telling The Irrawaddy that clashes first broke out as government troops attempted to take photos of KIA outposts in Laika-Zukja village.

Naw Mai, who is in charge of an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in MengKaung village, told The Irrawaddy: “Because all the people fled for their lives in a panic, the sick, elderly and disabled persons were left in their homes.”

The 22 people left behind have been trapped in a handful of villages since Sept. 20. Although IDP camp administrators and aid organizations have attempted to rescue the trapped civilians, their villages remain inaccessible due to the deployment of government troops in the area.

“We’re holding negotiations with both the military and the KIA to rescue the trapped,” said Salai Ai Z Khin, a member of a local civilian protection group. “At present, I am not supposed to divulge details.”

The fighting in Mansi Township has forced about 200 locals from 62 households in Laika-Zukja, Kaparayan, Konekapa, Monelu and Jsawng villages from their homes and into IDP camps.

The affected area is not new to conflict, and was last the staging ground for hostilities between the KIA and government troops in October 2013.

“We had no time to take anything. As soon as we heard troops were coming, we fled, taking nothing,” Nan Ban from Konekapa village said of the most recent fighting.

Sai Ja from Jsawng village said displaced civilians undertook a five-hour jungle trek to arrive at an IDP camp in MengKaung village.

“We went through the jungle to avoid troops. We started walking at 10 am and arrived only at 3 pm,” Sai Ja told The Irrawaddy.

The 200-odd IDPs are being provided shelter at a camp in MengKaung village, also in Mansi Township, but accommodation there is in short supply as the camp has been hosting more than 1,100 IDPs since the 2013 outbreak of hostilities.

The military has deployed troops throughout much of Mansi Township, including at an outpost near MengKaung Village. IDPs there say they are able to hear bursts of artillery fire, indicating that they remain in close proximity to the frontline.

A ceasefire between the government and the KIA collapsed in 2011 and more than 100,000 people have been displaced by the fighting in Kachin and northern Shan states. Despite the ongoing conflict, KIA negotiators have actively participated in efforts to reach a nationwide ceasefire between the government and more than a dozen ethnic armed groups.

The government has said it hopes to ink the long-sought peace accord next month.