Kachin Community Told Not to Open IDP Camps in Tanai

By Nyein Nyein 12 June 2017

Around 950 people who fled fighting in the villages of Tanai Township, Kachin State, continue to take temporary shelter at the churches and monasteries in Tanai town, as the authorities have reportedly barred the opening of camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Due to nearly a week of clashes between the Myanmar Army and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) near the Kawng Ra, N’Ga Ga and the Nambyu areas, locals and those working in amber and gold mines have been leaving since last Tuesday. Internal migrants have largely returned to their homes elsewhere, but local villagers have said they have no other place to go.

Some of those fleeing were not allowed to travel to Tanai town last week using standard routes and waterways; others used longer, more unorthodox paths to reach safety in the city.

On Monday morning, the relief committee formed by Christian religious leaders providing support to displaced villagers had a meeting with township authorities, including Tanai’s administrative director, police and the military personnel. According to the community representatives, these authorities said that they do not want the relief workers to open formal IDP camps.

Until Saturday, June 10, the Tanai authorities had been instructing displaced people to move to Kawng Ra village, where the current fighting continues, said Mung Dan, from the Tanai-based Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC). The IDPs refused, fearing for their security.

“On Monday, they did not say anything about moving [the IDPs to Kawng Ra], but they did say that no IDP camps could be opened in Tanai, in order to preserve the dignity of town. We can help the people in our churches,” he said.

More people have been slowly arriving, trickling in to the town, rather than showing up in large groups.

Relief workers told The Irrawaddy that more than 500 people are taking shelter at KBC churches, while 200 people are under the care of the Catholic Church, and an estimated 133 people are being cared for by the Anglican Church. Around 120 are also staying in monasteries in Tanai.

They have been asked to compile a list of the displaced in the churches and monasteries, which will be checked by authorities later, Mung Dan said.

When fighting erupted last week, the Tatmadaw reportedly distributed a written message from helicopters warning workers to leave amber and gold mines in Tanai no later than June 15.

State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was asked on June 10 by members of the Burmese community in Canada—where she was on an official visit—what the government would do to follow up on this order to flee. She replied that she had “not heard anything” about the military’s letter, but would investigate it.

“We have to know who ordered it, and if it is true, it is the job of the social welfare ministry to take care of it,” she said.

According to U Win Myat Aye, the Union minister for social welfare, relief and resettlement, the ministry helps those IDPs “who can make it to Moegaung Township only,” which is south of and not bordering Tanai. He added that they have assisted about two dozen people who are seeking shelter with relatives there.

Nang Lwin Hnin Pwint contributed to this report.