Hpakant villagers evacuated amid renewed fighting

Hpakant villagers evacuated amid renewed fighting

Residents in a number of villages near Hpakant have been ordered by the Burmese army to evacuate the region, following recent clashes with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in central Kachin State.

A village administrator told DVB that a warning from the Burmese military was issued on 28 June for evacuation of the villagers no later than the following day, Monday.

“The 421st Infantry Battalion commander told local village leaders and pastors that the Tatmadaw [Burmese army] have their artillery aimed at positions in the area and we must evacuate no later than today [29 June] as there will likely be fighting,” said the man, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“Some villagers have already left their homes and some are currently packing up. I am discussing with Christian pastors how we can best evacuate our families and fellow villagers. This is a lot of hassle for us as we’re in the growing season and we have to leave our farms behind. It’s also difficult with the children.”

He said hundreds of residents from the five villages of Tadanyinaung, Gawluyang, Khawngzizut, Saihka and Katmaw are getting ready to move out as government troops take position about 17 miles south from Hpakant, and the KIA to the north.

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KIA 2nd Brigade 6th Battalion Commander Maj. Laphai Tansang confirmed that the Tatmadaw are reinforcing their positions.

Fighting resumed between the KIA unit and government forces on 15 June, including the deployment of artillery, which has forced around 100 residents from Sutngai, Hsengja and Aunglan villages to flee their homes.

The hills around Hpakant are one of the world’s last remaining sources for rare and expensive jade stones. Approximately 50 companies have permits to excavate and extract jadeite, which is mostly exported to neighbouring China.

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