Villagers Forced to Flee as Kachin State Clashes Continue

By Lawi Weng 28 September 2015

RANGOON — Over 100 villagers in Kachin State’s Mansi Township were forced to flee their homes on Sunday after clashes continued between government troops and the Kachin Independence Army in the state’s southernmost township.

Khar Aung of the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) said 132 people from Yaw Tit Kong and Pyin Oo Lwin in Mansi Township were sheltering at a religious hall after fleeing fighting which broke out in Mai Hkawng on Sunday.

“They are still shooting their artillery. All the IDPs are still at the hall and it is not safe for them. It is only one mile away from the fighting. More KBC members are preparing to go there to offer help,” Khar Aung said.

Renewed fighting in the township between the Burma Army and KIA troops broke out on Sept. 18, forcing around 200 locals from their homes.

According to the KBC, the conflict has also claimed several civilian lives.

Three civilians were killed and two injured during fighting on Sept. 23 at Mai Hkawng, according to the local aid group. The conflict is ongoing, the group said, as the government deploys more heavy weaponry and troops to the area.

Zimi Zong, a school teacher in Mai Hkawng, described hearing the fighting from her classroom.

“Students were afraid of course when they heard gun shots. We only stopped our class when we heard the gun shots. We sat in class and listened to the shooting,” she said.

“Fighting only broke out here when the Burmese Army advanced into KIA-controlled areas. If they did not go there, there would be no fighting.”

Government troops have established positions in at least three main locations in Mansi Township, including the site of a pagoda, Khon Ja of the Kachin Peace Network wrote in a Facebook post.

Some from among the local Buddhist community have objected to the Burma Army’s use of the pagoda compound as a staging ground for attacks on the KIA, Khon Ja wrote.

Despite the ongoing conflict, which has displaced over 100,000 people since a ceasefire between the government and the KIA collapsed in June 2011, Kachin negotiators have actively participated in efforts to reach a nationwide ceasefire agreement.

Leaders of ethnic armed groups have convened in Chiang Mai, Thailand, for three days beginning Monday to discuss the agreement that the government hopes to ink before the country’s Nov. 8 election.