Aid workers struggle to reach fleeing Kachin civilians

Displaced 'in dire need' of help as military, weather block access to region
Church relief groups said that more than 1,000 Kachin civilians displaced by renewed fighting in war-torn Kachin state are in dire need of humanitarian aid.

Food, clothing, temporary shelter supplies and medicine have been ready for distribution to the displaced since last week but delivering supplies to those in need has been hindered by poor weather and military troop movements in the region, according to Church workers.

The Rev Lama Yaw, spokesman from Kachin Baptist Convention in Myitkyina told on July 20 that a water route — the most accessible route to the displaced Kachins — was blocked by the military for “security reasons”.

Heavy rains have made road access nearly impossible, he said. “It would take 20 days to reach [the displaced],” he added.

The newly displaced are “in dire need” of aid, he said.

Bishop Francis Daw Tang of Myitkyina diocese said the Catholic Church is observing the situation and is ready to respond to the humanitarian need.

“The situation remains tense amid ongoing clashes so getting access to those fleeing Kachin civilians is a challenge so far. But I have informed the parish priest in that area to be alert and ready to collect data when tension is reduced,” Bishop Daw Tang told July 20.

Renewed fighting between the military and the Kachin Independence Army in Suprabum township in northern Kachin state forced more than 1,000 Kachin civilians from nearby villages to flee to the jungle in rebel-controlled territory.

San Awng, a Catholic businessman and a member of Myitkyina-based Peace Talk Creation Group, said about 600 of the displaced are in camps and receiving aid from the rebels. But another 400 civilians remain in the jungle without access to aid. 

“The condition of the remaining people in the jungle seems to be a worrying sign,” San Awng said.

San Awng said there was a historical pattern of clashes erupting shortly after the opening of new peace talks, with the military moving additional troops into ethnic territories, leading to fresh clashes and undermining the peace process.

The Kachin conflict intensified in 2011, after a 17-year ceasefire between rebels and the government broke down, driving nearly 100,000 civilians from their homes.

The government and rebels are expected to reopen talks on a ceasefire in late July.

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