A series of clashes between government forces and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) over the past week has forced hundreds of people to flee from gold-mining sites in Kachin State’s Kamaing Township.
San Oo, a vendor at one of the sites, said that Burmese troops were blocking roads in and out of the area, cutting off access to food amid fighting with the KIA that began last week.
“We are afraid to stay in the town as we can hear the fighting. The roads have been blocked, so there is no food or other necessary items coming in,” he said.
“As it was getting harder to survive, we had no other option than to leave the town,” he added.
He said the KIA opened safe passage for the civilians to flee the area. The majority of those who fled the mines arrived in the village of Shaduzup on Saturday and have since been transported to the towns of Namtee and Myitkyina by government forces.
According to those who fled, there are still around 100 gold miners working at 12 sites around Kamaing.
On Saturday, the Burmese military mouthpiece Myawady reported that several columns of government troops in Kamaing had participated in combined operations last week to clear out illegal gold-mining operations and insurgent activities in the area.
An earlier report by the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar on Friday said that between 28 July and 2 August, government troops confiscated 17 backhoe excavators, three 22-wheeled vehicles, three 10-wheeled vehicles, six six-wheeled vehicles and 13 rafts, all used for illegal mining. Four foreign nationals were also reported arrested in the operation.
The report said that two separate clashes took place on 3 August, one between government troops and a group of 15 KIA members, and another involving around 50 KIA soldiers.
The two sides also exchanged small and heavy fire on Thursday, the newspaper added.