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Army nears KIA stronghold

Last outpost before Laiza falls

Army nears KIA stronghold
A young activist shows a peace flag as he joins a 1,300 km march from Yangon to Laiza to appeal for peace (picture: AFP)
John Zaw, Mandalay

January 28, 2013

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The fall of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA)'s last outpost before Laiza town has sparked fear among refugees, according to a priest in the area. 

About 12,000 refugees have been taking shelter in temporary camps in and around Laiza, the KIA's headquarters on the border with China, according to a humanitarian aid workers sources.

Many can’t decide whether they should flee, Father Nanzing Latt said, warning that there may be a fresh humanitarian crisis if the military’s offensive against Kachin rebels continues to escalate. 

According to Fr Nanzing Latt, a Kachin Independence Organization official told the refugees the organization will negotiate with Chinese authorities for refugee camps if the fighting continues.

“We are ready to flee if the fighting reaches Laiza town,” Hkawng Nu, a local Kachin woman said.

Fighting between military and the KIA has intensified since June 2011 after a 17-year ceasefire agreement broke down shortly after the new civilian president, Thein Sein, came to power.

Doi Pi Sa, who heads the Kachin Relief and Development Committee in Laiza, told on Monday, “we are very concerned for the security of the refugees… but so far, we have to take a wait-and-see approach.”

“Even if the people flee to China, they will face trouble, as there are many limitations in China,” Doi Pi Sa said.

According to a Chinese state-run media report, China’s Yunnan province is planning camps for 10,000 people in case refugees cross the border.

After 19 months of fighting, more than 10,000 Kachin people are living in temporary camps near the border.

Around Laiza, there has been no fighting since Sunday when the military took the KIA’s last outpost at Hka Ya Bum hill. This is is the first time it has been quiet around Laiza since last month, said Major John Brang from the KIA.

Thein Sein has repeatedly said he has ordered the military to only engage in defensive action against the Kachin rebels and to not occupy Laiza.

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