GENEVA–Conflict between Burma’s army, the Tatmadaw, and guerrillas of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in northern Burma, also known as Myanmar, has escalated since Jan. 19, including in Sumprabum, Waingmaw and Tanai townships, a U.N. humanitarian report said on Friday.
“The United Nations and its humanitarian partners are concerned about the safety of civilians in these areas,” it said.
“The Tanai area has seen heavy fighting since 25 January 2018. There have been reports of a number of civilians killed or injured.”
The KIA has clashed regularly with the Burmese military since 2015, when a 17-year-old ceasefire broke down.
The KIA now is one of Burma’s most powerful militias, and has joined a Northern Alliance coalition of rebels along with two smaller groups and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA ) – formerly part of the Communist Party of Burma, a powerful China-backed guerrilla force that battled the Burmese government until splintering in 1989.
The U.N. report said aid agencies were reporting about 1,800 people, mainly laborers, had been evacuated from the Tanai area as a result of the latest fighting, but other civilians were still in the areas of conflict and unable to leave.
Portraits of astounding resilience. Danai, Kachin State. pic.twitter.com/hicdTpYBRV
— FreeKachin (@FreeKachin) January 29, 2018
Remnants of Tatmadaw air bombings. pic.twitter.com/LbSkDF68ly
— FreeKachin (@FreeKachin) January 30, 2018
After Burma army begin shelling Nhtan Zup village and NDup Yang IDP camps on Jan 16, 2018; civilians fled to encamp new shelter near Jara Yang, south of Sumprabum, Northern Kachin State. pic.twitter.com/bLEN7cDH5K
— FreeKachin (@FreeKachin) January 31, 2018
U.N. staff had not been granted access to the area and could not independently verify the information, it said.
In Sumprabum township more than 700 people were sheltering in the forest after being displaced on Jan. 22. They included villagers and about 500 people from an internal displacement camp who fled after mortar bombs landed near the camp.
Tanai and Sumprabum are located on the two major roads running north from Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin state, the northernmost part of Burma, between China and India.
On three occasions since mid-December, most recently on Jan. 27, mortar bombs also landed close to a displacement camp in Waingmaw township, just cross the Irrawaddy river from Myitkyina, the report said.
Burma is already under international scrutiny for its handling of the Rohingya crisis on the Bangladesh border.
— Yanghee Lee (@YangheeLeeSKKU) February 1, 2018
The U.N. human rights investigator for Burma, Yanghee Lee, was barred in December from visiting the Rohingya areas and also Kachin and Shan states.
She told Reuters at the time that Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian government had no authority in Kachin state, since anything connected to security issues was controlled by military commanders.
“We want peace, instead of wasting resources in fighting amongst brothers, these funds could have been used on education, health, & public welfare. We want ethnic to have political autonomy. This war is on-going because of Commander in Chief.” Tatmadaw Officer detained by TNLA pic.twitter.com/8UYhp5uMUR
— FreeKachin (@FreeKachin) January 13, 2018
She called on the international community to put more pressure on military commanders, and on China, to ensure that human rights were respected in the conflict.
By Tom Miles