YANGON — In a further escalation of the conflict in northern Kachin State, the Myanmar Army has ordered locals of four Kachin communities to remain in their villages, as the military prepares for battles in the area.
The Tatmadaw and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) have clashed every day in the lands surrounding Hpakant and Tanai townships since June 4, forcing thousands to flee their homes and their work in the area’s amber and gold mines.
In a written statement issued on Wednesday, the Myanmar Army’s 297th Infantry Battalion ordered the village heads of Nawng Mi, Warazup, and Shaduzup in Hpakant Township, and Tingkawk in Tanai Township to tell residents not to leave their villages, including for activities such as farming, logging, fishing, hunting, and tending vegetables.
The order started on Thursday and will run until July 2, according to the statement, which put responsibility for any injuries endured by locals who leave the villages on the community leaders. All four villages are on Ledo Road, a highway passing through Hpakant, Tanai, and Myitkyina, the Kachin State capital.
Many residents are aware of the statement, as it is spread on social media, although the order was first sent to the villages’ heads, according to Kachin Baptist Church member Nor Seng from Tanai Township.
“We tried to find out from the villagers about the letters, and they told us that it was true,” said Nor Seng.
The Northern Alliance, to which the KIA belongs, detailed clashes with the Tatmadaw in La War village in Hpakant and Kunsawyan village in Tanai on June 21. Local people said the two forces clashed five times on Ledo Road between Tanai and Hpakant on June 20.
La Daw, an ethnic Kachin taxi driver who works the route from Tanai to Myitkyina, said the number of cars and buses making the 190-kilometer journey from Tanai to Myitkyina were dwindling as the conflict intensifies.
The Karen Baptist Church reported that 513 internally displaced people (IDPs) have arrived in Tanai since June 9—most of whom were Kachin who fled from mining areas.
They abandoned their villages after the Myanmar Army ordered them via letters dropped from a military helicopter to leave the area by June 15 or else be “recognized as insurgents.”
Nine villages in the Hugawng Valley region were abandoned, according to a joint statement from 28 Kachin civil society organizations.
The statement accused the Myanmar Army and the locally elected National League for Democracy politicians of wanting to drive out residents and seize the lands and farms of: Nam Byu/Nam Hkam; Nam Gawn; N’Ga Ga; Hkan Ja; Tung Mali; Kawng Ra; Ding Hkun 1; Ding Hkun 2; and Mung Hkawm.
“It is clear that the Tatmadaw’s current military offensive is aimed at seizing local lands to make way for Naypyidaw-approved mining companies, agricultural companies and so-called environmental conservation organizations, and preventing the thousands of local inhabitants from ever returning,” read the statement.