Thousands in Kachin suffering under blockade

Sections of the northern Myanmar state have been cut-off by the military who are targeting rebel fighters
Thousands in Kachin suffering under blockade

In this photograph taken Jan. 20, 2017, a boy, whose family was displaced from conflict between ethnic rebel groups and government military troops, eats at a roadside evacuation area near Lung Byeng village in Kachin State. In the Tanai area of Kachin, internally displaced persons have been suffering food and fuel shortages as a result of a military blockade. (Photo Hkun Lat/AFP)

Local residents and internally displaced people in Tanai town of Myanmar's northern Kachin State are suffering amid a military blockade.

Militants from the Kachin ethnic minority have been involved in a long-running conflict with security forces of the national government. 

Reverend Je Di, pastor of the local Kachin Baptist Church in Tanai, said the military has been restricting the delivery of rice and fuel for months.

However, conditions deteriorated markedly in recent weeks as the price of fuel skyrocketed and the amount of rice available for purchase dwindled.

Diesel now costs US$6.60 per gallon.

The impact has been particularly severe on some 1,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) who took refuge in Tanai after fleeing clashes elsewhere in the state.

Many staying at churches rely on local donors for support, Rev. Je Di told ucanews.com.

He expressed deep concern over longer-term impacts of food shortages.

Manam Tu Ja, a Catholic and chairman of the Kachin State Democracy Party, said the military's blockade could be aimed at rebels of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).

However, it was locals and displaced civilians who were suffering.

On Dec. 4, Colonel Myo Tin, the state's security and border affairs minister, said some businessmen, including illegal miners, were strongly suspected of supporting the KIA.

He cited this as an ongoing reason for closely monitoring the delivery of food and other supplies.

The region's gold and amber mines, where an estimated 100,000 people work, are concentrated near Tanai.

Most of the workers are Buddhists from central Myanmar, according to local sources.

Hundreds of villagers and thousands of mine workers left the area after the military six months ago warned of planned so-called 'clearance operations' against armed rebels.

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The Catholic Kachin politician Tu Ja said that while some occasional clashes are continuing in Kachin state, there is no serious fighting.

And he hopes there will be less future conflict as Myanmar's defacto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, aims to hold peace talks with various ethnic minorities in late January.

The people of Myanmar wanted an end to decades of civil wars, Tu Ja said.

Aung San Suu Kyi's government took office in April 2016 after wining elections in November the previous year.

But the military, which had ruled the country for more than 50 years, remains a strong force.

The civilian government faces the daunting task of managing the country's resources, which includes dealing with firms that have close ties with the military.

Suu Kyi's government has pledged to end ethnic conflicts, but renewed clashes have undermined her peace initiatives.

Ongoing strife, not least involving Muslim Rohingyas in troubled Rakhine state, has raised serious questions as to how much influence Suu Kyi has over the military.

Kachin state is 90 percent Christian, and has been beset by sporadic fighting for several decades.

More than 100,000 people have been displaced since fighting restarted in June 2011.

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