Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Fighting displaces villagers in Kachin State

Wednesday, 29 August 2012 13:20 Mizzima News

Up to 6,000 residents in Burma’s Hpakant jade mine area in Kachin State have fled from the area in the past two weeks, as Burmese government troops move into the area.

Human Rights Watch warns that thousands of ethnic Kachin fleeing war in Burma are at risk of abuses and food shortages. Photo: Karen News

The displaced persons have taken refuge in local Christian churches and Buddhist monasteries in Hpakan, the Kachin News Group (KNG) said in an article on its website on Tuesday.

The fighting intensified in the jade mining region in western Kachin State when government troops established a position near Maw Mau Bum – a the jade mining village and strategic military post for the Kachin Independence Army Battalion 6.

On Monday, KNG reported that an estimated 30 government soldiers were killed in heavy fighting for over five hours in the area between Seng Ja Bum Mountain and the Gwi Hka jade mine. There were no KIA casualties in the fighting, according to KIA officers from Battalion 6. Casualty figures could not be verified.

Meanwhile, China has reportedly began forcing Kachin refugees who had fled fighting in Burma back into the conflict zone in Kachin State, according to foreign human rights researchers. China denied reports that it has forced Kachin to leave refugee camps.

Thousands of Kachin refugees fled to China after a 17-year cease-fire agreement between the KIA and Burmese government ended in June 2011.

A researcher for Human Rights Watch said the repatriations appeared to have begun en masse last week. He estimated that 1,000 refugees had returned to Kachin State and that an additional 4,000 were projected to return by the end of the week.

Last week, Mizzima reported that those forced to return to Burma would be relegated to living in camps for internally displaced people that lack adequate aid and are currently isolated from UN agencies because the Burmese government has blocked humanitarian access to the area.

The KIO worked with the Chinese authorities to facilitate the returns.

Hundreds were transported on buses on Aug. 22 to a makeshift camp a few miles outside Maijayang, in a KIO-controlled area of Kachin State. Hundreds of other refugees were transported to Burmese government-controlled areas outside Namkham, according to Human Rights Watch.

The KIO is setting up new camps in territory under its control in Kachin State, but the camps are still inadequate, said HRW.

There are over 85 camps of internally displaced people in Kachin State, housing an estimated 75,000 people who lack adequate humanitarian aid, said HRW. Approximately 16 of the camps, in KIO-controlled areas, are already home to at least 55,000 Kachin.

All camps in KIO territory are generally inaccessible to UN agencies because of restrictions imposed by the government.

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