The Irrawaddy

More than 3,000 People Now Trapped by Fighting in Kachin State

MYITKYINA — More than 3,000 poeple are now trapped in conflict zones amid clashes between the Myanmar Army (or Tatmadaw) and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in Kachin State, according to the Kachin Baptist Council (KBC).

“Temporary shelters in Shangaw and Hkawam [in Waingmaw] are not yet safe. Clashes occur there frequently. Displaced persons trapped in Lai Nawng Hku and Injangyang are not safe either,” said Khali, who works for the KBC.

The total number of displaced persons in Tanai, Kamaing, Namti, Waingmaw, Chipwe and Injangyang towns has increased by over 6,100 since April 1, Khali said.

Of this group, around 2,800 people are taking shelter at churches in Myitkyina and Namti townships, and nearly 3,400 remain trapped in unsafe places.

Some are trapped in conflict zones as the Tatmadaw has barred them from leaving, Khali said.

“We want to flee, but the military won’t let us. We are short of food, and want to move to a safe place,” a displaced person trapped in Lai Nawng Hku in Hpakant said on condition of anonymity.

A total of 320 displaced persons taking shelter at churches in Shangaw and Hkawam villages in Waingmaw Township sought to go to Myitkyina or Waingmaw. Over 400 displaced persons taking shelter at Kachin Baptist Church in Chipwe also want to move somewhere safer.

Around 2,000 displaced persons from Awng Lawt village in Tanai Township have been trapped in forests since April 11 and are running out of food, Khali said.

Around 160 displaced persons trapped in Kamaing, and 500 more taking shelter at a Buddhist monastery in Injangyang also need to be evacuated.

The Tatmadaw’s Northern Command distributed a written notification in Burmese and Kachin on April 20 addressed to displaced persons stating that it was only attacking KIA outposts and had taken steps to ensure that villages and locals were not affected. It also promised to provide assistance to those returning to their homes.

The Tatmadaw also said it had provided food and other supplies to villagers returning to their homes in Man Wai and Lai Nawng Hku.

“Both the government and military leadership should allow them to go anywhere they like, as they are citizens,” Khali said.

On April 30, around 5,000 Kachin staged a protest calling for government intervention to rescue displaced persons trapped in forests amid clashes.

Since then, over 100 Kachin youth have staged a sit-in, which they said would continue until those trapped by clashes are rescued.

The Myitkyina-based KBC sent a letter to State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on April 27 urging her to intervene and see that those trapped in clashes are rescued immediately.