60000 villagers flee Burma military assault

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Church compounds are overflowing with refugees from the area of fighting between Burmese government troops and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA/KIO), reports People In Need.

Kachin refugees flee fighting between KIA and government troops. (Photograph: The Irrawaddy)

Last week we visited Myitkyina and Waimaw in Kachin State in Burma. All the church compounds overflow with refugees from the area of fighting between the government troops and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA/KIO).

The plight and suffering of the refugees is immense; many are stuck in temporary and tarpaulin shelters for six months already. Up to 35 per cent of the refugees are children under the age of 12; children and adults are traumatised from the fighting and destruction of their villages; the adults have nothing to do and long for the return to their home places.

Despite the order of President Thein Sein to stop the fighting, the Burmese army continues to assault military and civilian targets unabated. Reinforcements from Hpa-An, Pyi and Chin State have been transferred to Kachin State and the fighting leaves villages burnt and harvests destroyed. Since Wednesday, 28 December 2011 Myitkyina is without electricity as the fighting towards the Chinese border took out some electricity lines.

In Myitkyina and Waimaw alone, there are 7799 refugees (or in legal terms: internally displaced persons) and in the government-controlled areas of Kachin State, it is a total 15067 refugees. In the KIO-controlled areas the numbers runs up to 45132(!) victims who have run away from the fighting to safer areas (number at 24 December 2011).

In Myitkyina and Waimaw, UNHCR, UN OCHA and WFP provide some help but in the other areas, such as Bamaw and the KIO-areas along the Chinese border, the support depends largely on the Christian and other local organisations.

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Little is known outside of the Kachin State about the true magnitude of this humanitarian disaster (60000 refugees) as even UN OCHA does not distribute its reports widely.

Please distribute the numbers and reports as widely as you can. The visit of the British Foreign Secretary in Burma should give amble opportunity for the press to report on the plight of their former WWII-allies if they are provided with the proper information and data. Unfortunately, the slow speed of the internet in Myanmar doesn’t allow to send photos.

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