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A fresh wave of hostilities between the Burmese army and the Kachin Independence army (KIA) in the northern region’s Bhamo district has forced hundreds of residents to flee to displacement camps in recent weeks.
Locals from the villages of Moetainpar, Konja, Mahkonyang and Namhpu – each around 20 miles west of Mansi town in Bhamo – fled their homes to the safety of the Namhlinpar and Monghkon displacement camps when the Burmese army’s Military Operations Command 21 reinforced its troop strength in the region following clashes with the KIA in mid-October.
A member of Karuna Myanmar civil society group, which has been providing aid for the internally displaced persons (IDPs), said that more than 1,000 residents from Moetainpar alone had fled to seek refuge at local churches in the town of Bhamo and the Namhlinpar camp in Mansi after Burmese government forces shelled the area on 21 October.
“Four villages were affected by the fighting. Most of the residents fled to Bhamo while a smaller number went to Namhlinpar,” said Karuna Myanmar member Nordin.
He said there were already around 1,500 IDPs in Namhlinpar camp following the hostilities at the end of 2011 while new arrivals were estimated to be around 400.
State-run media reported 478 people, including 137 students from Moetainpar village, arrived in Bhamo on 30 October. They were picked up in trucks by local authorities and provided shelter at two local churches, said the report.
Nordin said the IDPs at Namhlinpar were surviving on rice porridge and tubers, and by foraging in the forest.
A statement released by Kachin Women’s Association- Thailand on 31 October claimed residents from the four villages were forced to flee after Burmese soldiers detained and tortured 10 of their fellow residents, accusing them of being KIA members. They also allegedly raped a local woman who is married.
State media said the army has been deployed in the area to crack down on cattle and timber traffickers.