World Refugee Day reminds Kachin plight

Kachin civilians fleeing a conflict zone (Photo: WPN)

UN’s Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in his message to mark World Refugee Day that refugees leave because they have no choice and we must choose to help. World Refugee Day, observed June 20 each year, is dedicated to raising awareness of the situation of refugees throughout the world. According to UN’s statistics, there are more than 42 million people worldwide who have been forcibly displaced from their homes. During last year, a record 800,000 people were forced to flee across borders, more than at any time since 2000, said UNHCR’s report.

UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie said, “Unfortunately, the world is producing displaced people faster than it is producing solutions to displacement. And the solutions are not exclusively humanitarian – they are also political,” in a message to mark the Day.

About 75,000 Kachin Internally Displaced Persons and refugees were forced to leave their homes in Kachin and Shan State since the beginning of renewed fighting between KIA and Burmese government army on June 9, 2011. Most IDPs and refugees are currently living in perilous conditions along China-Burma borders without adequate food, medicine, clothing and shelter. Official aids such as the United Nations’ and other international aid agencies’ are hard to reach to the areas controlled by KIO.  Few envoys have had been allowed to deliver aids but UN and NGOs are unable to provide adequate food and basic items largely because of Burmese government’s intervention and short of donations.

According to a crisis map compiled by Kachin relief groups, there were a total of 60275 refugees and IDPs (as of March 2012, Map of IDP & Refugee Camps) in Kachin and Shan State has been displaced and living at temporary camps. There was a dramatic increase of refugees and IDPs beginning mid-April as fighting escalates in former NDA-K controlled Pangwa areas.

A Kachin relief group, Wunpawng Ninghtoi, said in early May that foods are running out in storage houses. The group requested that basic food items such as rice, salt, oil, potato and bean are urgently needed. There are about 14000 IDPs (3350 households) under the care of Wunpawng Ninghtoi relief group. Two camp sites (La Ying and Nawng Tau) are located in China side of the border and five other camps are located at Seng Mai Pa, Nbapa, Je Gau, Ung Lung and Gat Pa.

As the rainy season approach, the need arises for safer infrastructure to prevent from the possible impact of heavy rains and strong wind gusts. An aid worker said it can be devastating if there is not enough assistance especially for children and women. The arrival of the rainy season marks the beginning of the cholera epidemic and other communicable disease risk.

KIO Central Committee requested  in a letter (To Mr. Ban Ki-moon) to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to send UN observer teams or intermediary teams to the conflict war zones, and to the towns and villages destroyed by the Burmese Army, and to the IDP camps in KIO areas.

Fighting continues

Meanwhile, heavy battles continue between Kachin Independence Army and Burmese government army as attempts for truce fail and no signs of talks on political settlement.

On June 20 alone, several battles took place in various fronts across Kachin and northern Shan State. A fierce battle took place between KIA’s capital security forces and Burmese Army’s 40th LIB near Na Lung police station on June 20 at 6:25 pm. KIA’s 3rd Battalion has fought against Burmese Army’s 301st LIB near Lanu fall in Sadung area on the same day at 3:30 pm.

Burmese Army’s 320th LIR has reportedly moved into KIO’s frontline area near Bum Sawn hill on June 20. Local sources said that Burmese Army’s artillery unit based in Daw Hpum Yang has provided covering fire for the advancing troops from 320th LIR.