Landslide Kills 5 Civilians in Kachin Camp

By Lawi Weng 22 July 2014

RANGOON — Five people were killed in a camp for displaced Kachin civilians near the rebel-held town of Laiza on Tuesday after their shelters were buried by a landslide, according to Kachin rebels. They said the disaster occurred after several days of heavy rains hit the mountainous region in Kachin State, northern Burma.

Doi Be Za, an officer in charge of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) IDPs and Refugees Relief Committee, told The Irrawaddy that two families were buried alive inside their huts at Je Yang camp during the mudslide and instantly killed.

“There has been a lot of rain here. A landslide from the mountain occurred this morning around 7 am and two shelters were destroyed; two older people and three children were killed,” he said, adding that a funeral would be held for the victims around 4 pm on Tuesday.

The victims include a 50-year-old man, a 40-year-old woman and three teenage boys, aged between 14 and 15 years, according to Doi Be Za.

Three days of downpours in the KIO-controlled parts of Kachin State, which include the town of Laiza and mountainous areas along the Burma-China border, had caused several landslides in the area that have blocked roads and put internally displaced person’s (IDP) camps at risk, he said.

Je Yang refugee camp, located south of Laiza, is home to some 8,000 Kachin who have been displaced by the fighting between the Kachin rebels and the Burma Army, which began in mid-2011.

More than 100,000 ethnic civilians have been displaced by the conflict and the majority live in KIO-controlled areas, where their situation is precarious because the rebels and local Kachin NGOs struggle to support the camps. UN and other international aid groups have only been able to offer some support for several IDP camps in rebel-held areas.

In May, several Kachin NGOs warned that the impending rainy season would bring problems for the displaced as their tents were unsuitable for the heavy downpours that often lash northern Burma.

The conflict quieted down after intense fighting occurred in early 2013, but it continues to fester as attempts to negotiate bilateral ceasefire between Kachin rebels and government have failed.

In recent months, skirmishes have become more frequent and a government offensive in southern Kachin State in April displaced another 2,700 villagers.

Ethnic Palaung and Shan rebels have also increasingly clashed with the Burma Army as fighting has spilled over into northern Shan State, where hundreds of villagers fled their homes in recent weeks.