Thousands in Kachin State’s capital Myitkyina joined a rally on Monday demanding safe passage for displaced civilians trapped amid clashes between the Burmese military and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).
The rally, held at the Manaw festival grounds in the state capital, drew around 5,000 participants including local residents and NGO workers.
Zaw Jack, coordinator of the Kachin Social Development Foundation and a participant in Monday’s event, called for allowing the evacuation of displaced persons who have taken to hiding in the forests surrounding their villages, and a halt to artillery shelling of civilian-populated areas.
“We call for the opening of a passageway to evacuate local villagers trapped by the recent military offensive and to refrain from recklessly shelling civilian areas with heavy weaponry and artillery,” said Zaw Jack.
The Burmese military on 11 April renewed attacks on the KIA ethnic armed group in northern Burma and the clashes as of 28 April had displaced local villagers in several of Kachin State’s townships including Tanai, where the KIA in a statement on 5 April advised gold and amber miners to vacate the sites of their operations as the ethnic armed group planned to launch guerrilla attacks against Burma’s armed forces.
Local NGOs focused on providing relief for the IDPs said among the displaced locals hiding in the jungle were pregnant women, elderly persons and young children, including newborn babies struggling amid a shortage of food. The IDPs have expressed fears for their safety as the clashes have become more intense in recent days.
Civil society and nongovernmental organisations have also called on the Burmese military to halt offensives in Kachin State and urged the government to ensure safety and relief for civilians affected by the conflict. The groups are seeking a solution to end conflict with ethnic armies via political means instead of through military coercion or outright hostility toward the groups.