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Intense clashes between Burmese troops and Kachin rebels in the northern state’s Mansi and Momauk townships have caused up to 1,000 civilians to flee towards the China border, locals report.
A Mansi resident told DVB yesterday evening that heavy artillery fire had been heard nearby since Tuesday and was ongoing. Those who have escaped the conflict zone in recent days add to the 30,000 people estimated to have been displaced since fighting between Burmese forces and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) erupted in June.
A Kachin woman who said she had been helping some of those who fled since Wednesday warned that conditions were troubling. People who had made it into China were “sleeping on small plastic sheets on the ground”, she said after returning from a location across the border from Mansi.
“It’s not going well at all. They were not receiving any help and could not find anywhere to stay. They were even getting kicked out in areas populated by Chinese people.”
International aid to those affected by the fighting has been scarce: the UN is thought to have only been granted access to around 6,000 refugees in government-controlled areas, while some 25,000 more who fled to KIA territory are low on supplies.
The Kachin army spokesperson, La Nan, said that the recent clashes resulted from an attempted ambush on Burmese troops as they travelled between the Kachin towns of Bhamo and Momauk.
“They began sending trucks full of soldiers and ammunition in the direction of Momauk [yesterday] morning,” he said. “Eight of those trucks entered [KIA] territory … and clashed with our forces before reaching 17 Mile village [yesterday] afternoon.”
The aid effort for those outside of government territory has been largely undertaken by local churches and families, although reports several months ago warned that food was low and accommodation sparse.
The Kachin woman, who asked not to be identified, said that most of the refugees had been women and children. Poor living conditions had caused the spread of diarrhoea among younger children, she said.
Last week evidence emerged that Burmese troops had razed around 50 homes in the village of Aungjain eastern Kachin state following a similar incident in Namsan Yang village in September which left two civilians dead.
The burning of villages is a key part of the army’s so-called Four Cuts strategy, which looks to sever lines of support and communication for Burma’s various ethnic armed groups. Many depend on support, including food and surveillance, from local populations.