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A coalition of aid and relief groups working in Kachin State issued a statement on Monday warning that more than 3,000 civilians have been displaced by fighting in the southeast part of the state, which remains ongoing.
Clashes between Burmese military forces and troops from the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) began last Thursday, 10 April, near the government-controlled town of Man Win Gyi, in an area of Mansi township that is wedged between China and northern Shan State.
Tensions increased significantly in recent weeks as the government sent large numbers of troops to the area, ostensibly to assist implementation of the United Nations-funded national census, a process that was boycotted by the KIO.
According to the statement issued by a group of organisations identifying themselves as the Joint Strategy Team, the clashes have forced most of the 800 inhabitants of the KIO-controlled Lagat Yang internally displaced persons (IDP) camp to flee. The frontline is less than a kilometre from the camp and several shells landed in the camp on Friday.
Some of the IDPs from the camp have continued to stay in KIO territory while about 200 people are thought to have crossed into China. Most of the residents of Lagat Yang arrived there in November after the camp they were previously in at Nam Lim Pa was taken over the by the Burmese military.
An additional 2,000 people including ethnic Kachin, Shan and Palaung from Bang Glam, Nam Hi, Na Lung, Nawng Jun, Nawng Luk and 19 other villages have also crossed into China over the last 72 hours, according to the statement. Most are now staying in the town of Nawng Dao in Shan temples or the homes of relatives.
The 190 residents of another KIO-controlled IDP camp located in Hka Hkye Zup also fled to China by crossing a river over the weekend. Chinese authorities have allowed people to cross but continue to keep a close eye on the refugees and it remains unclear how long they will be allowed to stay. The statement noted that the fighting had created a “chaotic” situation on the Burma-China border which has yet to stabilise.
The statement also called also for “an immediate cessation of hostilities”, something that appears unlikely for now as Burmese Army units continued to attack KIO positions on Monday.
The groups that signed on to the statement include all of the major local NGO and faith-based organisations involved in relief efforts Kachin State. The Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC), Metta Development Foundation, Shalom Foundation, Wunpawng Ninghtoi (WPN), Karuna Myanmar Social Services (KMSS), the Kachin Women’s Association and BRIDGE all signed on to the statement.
More than 100,000 civilians have been displaced in Kachin and northern Shan states since June 2011 when a 17-year ceasefire between the KIO and the Burmese military collapsed. Negotiations remain ongoing towards securing a nationwide ceasefire, but intermittent. fighting continues between the Burmese armed forces and several ethnic armed groups.