16 Jan Clashes leave a thousand civilians stranded in Kachin State

Written by Phanida, Min Min Published in Myanmar Read 3542 times
A new outbreak of fighting, this time in Hpakant Township, Kachin State, has led to more civilians being displaced. A Kachin woman walks past a cross in the Nhkawng Pa Internally Displaced People camp, Kachin State, Myanmar, September 19, 2012. Photo: Nyein Chan Naing/EPA
A new outbreak of fighting, this time in Hpakant Township, Kachin State, has led to more civilians being displaced. A Kachin woman walks past a cross in the Nhkawng Pa Internally Displaced People camp, Kachin State, Myanmar, September 19, 2012. Photo: Nyein Chan Naing/EPA

Heavy clashes between Myanmar government military forces and Kachin Independence Army fighters have left a thousand civilians stranded in need of help, according to civil society groups.

The KIA Battalion 6 exchanged fire with government forces in Hpakant Township for the whole day on January 15, forcing civilians to attempt to flee the area.

The area, known for its jade mining, is about 50 miles northwest of the Kachin State capital of Myitkyina.

Ko Kar Gyi, a representative of the Kachin Development Network Group, said government forces did not allow religious leaders to rescue civilians, including schoolchildren, stranded in the Hpakant Township village of Aung Barlay, which the military was shelling with heavy weapons.

“Military forces closed the way to the conflict area as religious leaders and civil society groups were attempting to rescue local people who are in the danger zones,” he said.

One female witness in Aung Barlay said the villagers were taking shelter at a monastery to escape from the gunfire. The victims reportedly include 200 schoolchildren and 21 teachers.

Major Tan Sai from KIA Battalion 6 told Mizzima, “As government forces entered Aung Barlay village, clashes occurred around 6:30 am.”

The Kachin State government said the KIA had not released three police officers who were apprehended by them on January 14 while the officers were accompanying Transportation Minister U Ka Mann Dunaw of the state government.

An official of the Kachin State government confirmed that the release of these police officers is under discussion.

However, U Lamai Gumja, a peace facilitator for the Kachin conflict, said he was uncertain about the whereabouts of the officers as they have not made any contact with the KIA over this issue.