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Myanmar

Relief groups raise concern for Kachin civilians’ safety

Hundreds have fled to safe spaces, defying government orders to return home

Relief groups raise concern for Kachin civilians’ safety

More than 800 civilians in Kan See village in the war-torn Kachin state have fled to church-run IDP camps and relatives’ home, while another 600 have sought refuge in churches and monasteries.

Relief workers say that since Monday as many as ten families a day have been seeking safe spaces, defying a military order to return home. Around 1,500 people fled their homes and gathered in the village after fighting broke out in January. The military has blocked humanitarian assistance and evacuation according to relief workers.

“We are much concerned for the civilians’ safety as they passed through the jungle to reach the safe areas and relief groups can’t be allowed [to assist] evacuation,” said Hpun Sai, vice secretary of Kachin Baptist Church’s Uru Seng Maw Association in Hpakant.

Hpun Sai told ucanews.com on Friday that: “we call on the concerned parties to give permission to the relief groups to bring civilians to the safe areas and allow for humanitarian assistance”.

The UN has also raised concern for the affected villagers.

“I appeal to all parties to the conflict to allow the displaced people and other civilians who remain in close proximity to the area of conflict to be permitted to move to a more secure location and to allow for humanitarian assistance to reach this population in the safe areas,” Renata Dessallien, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar, said in a statement on Thursday.

Lanan Tu, a Baptist church relief worker in Lone Khin, confirmed that many people have arrived each day at the churches and monasteries in Hpakant and Lone Khin and that some are going to relatives’ homes.

Clashes between Myanmar's army and ethnic minority rebel groups in Kachin and Shan states have escalated in recent weeks, undermining attempts to broker a nationwide ceasefire and end decades of bloodshed in border regions.

State media on Friday said five soldiers have been killed in Shan state and four in Kachin state since Monday. A further 11 rebels fighters were also reported to have died.

Meanwhile, more than 2,000 Palaung civilians from five villages have fled to the mountainous areas due to the fighting between the government troops and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) on February 2 and 3 according to Ta’ang Women’s Organization and Ta’ang Students and Youths Union.

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Myanmar's government, which replaced junta rule in 2011, has vowed to end the civil wars that have been flaring on and off since independence as a key part of its reforms. But talks to secure a nationwide ceasefire have hit the buffers as long-held mistrust and continued fighting, particularly in Kachin, have overshadowed negotiations.

Kachin's conflict has raged since a 17-year ceasefire between rebels and the government broke down in 2011, driving almost 100,000 civilians from their homes.

Tsa Ji from Kachin Development Networking Group in Myitkyina said the recent fighting is linked to the military’s attempts to protect jade-mining companies by wiping out the Kachin rebels.

“Fighting undermines the peace process and the political dialogue is the only way for solving conflict towards peace. And we need to have the right of self-determination and decentralization,” Tsa Ji told ucanews.com on Friday.

Additional reporting by AFP

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