Internally displaced people (IDPs) near the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) Battalion 3 area in Waingmaw Township were trapped in a conflict zone after being turned away by China as they tried to cross the border following the Burma Army’s capture of four KIA outposts on Tuesday.
Some 4,000 IDPs from Zai Awng/Mugga Zuap and Hkau Shau camps were on their way to cross the Burma-China border, but those who arrived on Chinese soil were told to return home by Chinese police on Wednesday, said the spokesperson of the Joint Strategy Team (JST) supporting the IDPs.
Gum Sha Awng, a relief worker and JST spokesperson, said the IDPs are being affected physically and mentally by repeated evacuations due to nearby airstrikes. Artillery shelling and Burma Army airstrikes have continued for months as fighting between the Burma Army and the KIA has intensified.
“The IDPs live under constant fear, as they have experienced artillery explosions and aerial bombardments near their camps,” said Gum Sha Awng.
Three IDP camps—Magayang, Hkau Shau and Zai Awng (also known as Mugga Zup)—host about 7,000 people and face the most serious consequences as their locations are near the conflict areas.
On Dec. 27, some 2,600 IDPs left their shelters when an artillery shell hit their camps. Many settled in Lungbyen, some 10 miles away from Zai Awng. Chinese authorities denied entry to those who crossed the border in this instance as well.
Fighting has intensified during the recent seizure of further KIA outposts. The JST raised concerns regarding the safety and security of IDPs, especially elders, children, breastfeeding mothers and pregnant women.
“We do not know which side uses more military action, but unarmed civilians are the ones who suffer,” said Dr. Rev Hlalam Sam Sun, the secretary of the Kachin Baptist Convention in Myitkyina.
Gum Sha Awng urged the government, the Burma Army and ethnic armed groups to stop internal war for the benefit of the people.
“They must have the will [to end the fighting] and they must consider the best interest of the people,” he added.