Up to 3,000 refugees from a displacement camp in Kachin state’s Mansi township have been forced to flee once again as their camp was evacuated when clashes broke out nearby between Burmese government forces and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) on Sunday.
Mary Tawm, the co-founder of relief agency Wunpawng Ninghtoi, said intense fighting between the Burmese army and the KIA erupted on 17 November in Mansi, forcing residents in Namhlinpar village and thousands of refugees in a displacement camp nearby to flee into the jungle.
She said that around 200 people were still trapped in the village as of Monday and she estimated that some 3,000 may be hiding in the jungle. DVB could not verify those details.
“We heard the fighting in Nam Lim Pa was continuing as of 9pm on Sunday and that around 200 people remained in the village,” she said, adding that of the 3,000 villagers who had fled, some may have taken shelter in Lagatyang and Bhamo townships.
Many of the villagers would be also anxious about leaving their crops unattended because harvest is approaching, said Mary Tawm.
An alliance of local NGOs also released a statement on Monday, calling for access to the displaced villagers to provide humanitarian relief. The statement was co-signed by BRIDGE, Kachin Baptist Convention, Kachin Relief and Development Committee, Kachin Women’s Association, Kachin Development Group, Karuna Myanmar Social Services, Metta Development Foundation, Shalom Foundation and Wunpawng Ninghtoi.
The NGOs also said that 700 schoolchildren who had been blockaded in a boarding school by Burmese soldiers had later been released.
“The Myanmar government army has set up camp around the Nam Lim Pa Boarding School, which is hosting 700 students and 34 teachers,” the statement said. “These students and teachers were surrounded and blockaded inside the school compound, but an appeal by the Catholic Church has led to their release later in the evening.”
Meanwhile, state-run media in Burma said the clashes occurred as government forces set out to clear illegal loggers from the area.
Khon Ja of the Kachin Peace Network said Sunday’s clashes would cause damaging effects to the peace process.
“If the Tatmadaw [Burmese army] wanted to evict illegal loggers, they could have blocked access from Sagaing division as that is where all the loggers come from,” she said. “I have to assume that the government army was engaging deliberately to disrupt the peace process.”
Since a 17-year ceasefire was broken in June 2011 up to 100,000 Kachin villagers have been forced to abandon their villages and take refuge either with relatives in other townships, in IDP camps or in camps at the Chinese border, according to the NGOs which provide assistance.
Sunday’s hostilities come just a week after peace talks between the KIA’s political wing, the Kachin Independence Organisation, and a government delegation from Naypyidaw had concluded on a positive note with both sides pledging to work toward a ceasefire and the return of all Kachin IDPs to their homes.