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Kachin villagers isolated as military tensions escalate

Villages in Kachin State have been cut off from their local town, Hpakant, amid rising tensions between the Burmese government military and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).

Dashi Laseng, the Hpakant township chairman of the National League for Democracy, said residents from Jar Yar Yang village, about eight miles southeast of the town, have been unable to reach Hpakant or other local villages since 14 December.

“We received complaints from the villagers that their movements have been restricted due to a rise of tensions between the Burmese army and the KIA. These villagers make their living by selling farm products in Hpakant, so if they can’t go, their produce will become overripe,” said Dashi Laseng.

“We are planning to wait a little longer, and if this restriction on movement is not lifted we will speak to government authorities.” He also said that villagers who went to Hpakant before the restriction was in place are stranded in the town and unable to go home.

Other villages in the region have been affected in similar ways, such as Kan Si village west of Hpakant and Lone Khin, which has been isolated since 18 November.

Dashi Laseng said the Burmese army and KIA troops have dug themselves in on opposing banks of the Uru Creek, which has made many locals too scared to travel through the area.

Both the Burmese military and KIA were unavailable for comment.

San Aung, a broker in the peace talks between the government and the KIA, said: “There have been tensions rising in the Hpakant area and villagers often subjected to movement bans. The [government] should not make the villagers’ lives difficult, especially when there is already distrust looming about the ongoing peace process and doing so may provoke undesirable issues.”

The government and the KIA held their last round of talks in the beginning of October 2014 and agreed to reduce hostilities.



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