Monday, September 25, 2017

Hundreds of villagers trapped as crisis worsens in Kachin

Hundreds of villagers and mine workers are still trapped in the conflict zone in Kachin State as local aid agencies yesterday noted the worsening humanitarian crisis in Tanai township where displaced villagers sought refuge.

Workers leave with belongings from amber mines in Tanai township, Kachin State on June 15. Kaung Htet / The Myanmar TimesWorkers leave with belongings from amber mines in Tanai township, Kachin State on June 15. Kaung Htet / The Myanmar Times

“Hundreds of workers and villagers are still blocked on the way to Tanai town and are facing difficulties to get assistance,” according to a statement of the Joint Strategy Team (JST), a coordinating body of nine organisations helping the displaced people in Tanai.

Hundreds of evacuees were already taking shelters in monasteries and churches since the between the Tatmadaw and Kachin Independence Army escalated on June 3, according to the statement.

The National League for Democracy and state government have provided the affected population shelters in churches and monasteries across newly conflict affected areas with some basic food assistance. But prices of basic commodities have gone up due to restricted basic foods and fuel item to Tanai.

“Humanitarian access to the affected population and their protection and safety are of grave concern” the statement of JST said.

The JST said the situation is increasingly tense in nearby Daru area as well, and about 60 to 80 displaced households are on their way to Tanai town and currently staying at La Lum Zup village.

They fleeing villagers have requested churches in Tanai to pick them up, the statement added.

Some 1,500 IDPs who previously reported to have been trapped in the conflict area have evacuated to Tanai safely.

‘’ Despite being asked to leave the amber and jade mining areas by 15 June, some miners remain working here”, the statement statement added.

On June 5, a military helicopter allegedly scattered leaflets in the mining area warning workers from 10 mines to leave the place not later than June 15, today, since they are not officially allowed by the government to mine there and are damaging the environment and ecosystem.

According to local residents, the alleged Tatmadaw’s warning letter also said it would conduct clearance operations in the areas after the deadline is over.

Those who stay in the area after June 15 would be deemed supporters of the KIA, according to the letter.

As yesterday was the last day to move from the mines and with the already intensified military tension, the displaced villagers said they are afraid that fighting would break out.

However, till 5:00 pm of June 15, no serious attack happened in the mines, religious leaders and those in charge of the rescue committee formed by all denominations of churches, said.

“We will have to wait and see what will happen tomorrow. We hope no serious attack, now we are praying to the god as the only thing we can do the best,” Rev Brang Shaung from the Kachin Baptist Church.

The Tatmatdaw and the President’s office have not released any official information regarding the fighting and the displaced people in Tanai, despite the worsening humanitarian crisis in the area.