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Displaced in Myanmar running out of food

Aid group has 'grave concerns" for safety of trapped villagers

Displaced in Myanmar running out of food

Kachin refugees at a temporary camp in Kachin State

John Zaw, Mandalay

October 25, 2013

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More than 1,800 Kachin people trapped in a village in northern Myanmar following a raid by government forces are running out of food, humanitarian groups said on Friday.

Three days after the military fired mortars at Mung Ding Pa near the Chinese border, 1,000 villagers remain in a Baptist church with 800 more displaced people also hiding out nearby, said Naw Din, program director of Karuna Banmaw Social Services, a relief group.

“We have grave concerns for the safety of the trapped villagers and IDPs,” he said, adding that with the upcoming harvest they needed to be tending their crops to guarantee food supplies.

Negotiations have started between local religious leaders and the military in a bid to get food to these people in Mung Ding Pa, Maw Din said.

Some villagers have been allowed to get rice from their homes but were ordered back to the church to prepare the food, according to Kachin News Group. Villagers were reportedly warned they would be shot dead if they disobeyed orders.

The latest military attacks in restive Kachin state follow recent clashes between government troops and the rebel Kachin Independence Army (KIA) further south and in neighboring Shan State. Just two weeks ago, the rebels and the government held peace talks which included a deal for resettling the more than 100,000 people displaced since hostilities in the area resumed in 2011.

“Despite reaching some agreements on paper, the military is behaving according to its own will on the ground which goes against the peace talks. That’s why it questions whether the military is genuine in regards to the peace process with the ethnic groups,” said Dau Kha, a spokesman for the technical team at the Kachin Independence Organization, the political wing of the KIA.

A conference of ethnic armed groups is due to be held next week in Laiza, a Kachin rebel stronghold on the Chinese border.

Tomas Ojea Quintana, the UN’s rights envoy to Myanmar, said in a report presented to the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday that peace negotiations have only involved top decision makers on both sides. He called for more lower level participation.

“Greater efforts need to be made to involve displaced populations inside and outside the country,” he said.

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