Displaced families in Kayin allowed to return home after landmine clearance
WITH the flare-up of deadly clashes in Kayin State now over, the state government is preparing to return villagers who had fled the fighting to their homes in the Mae Tha Wor area of Hlaingbwe township.
The fighting, which began in August, pitted the Tatmadaw and an aligned Border Guard Force (BGF) against a splinter faction of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA).
U Min Tin Win, state minister for social affairs, told The Myanmar Times that the displaced families will be able to return to their homes after the Tatmadaw conducts a landmine clearing process over the coming days.
“Now that the fighting has ended, we need to think about resettlement. We won’t pressure the villagers to return to their homes and we won’t allow them to return if it is not safe,” he said.
Nearly 4000 residents have taken refuge at the Mying Gyi Ngu monastery in Hpa-an where they are reliant on government and public donations for support. Several hundred others also reportedly fled across the border to Thailand.
The state government, which will arrange transportation for the displaced, will also help to rebuild homes and schools destroyed in the fighting and will provide some food supplies, the social affairs minister said. The state government’s efforts will be assisted by the Tatmadaw and the Myaing Gyi Ngu monastery.
Daw Naw Htee Khu, who left her home with her family in Mae Tha Wor when the most recent round of fighting erupted, said she was scared to return because of the threat of landmines. A village administrator was killed in a landmine blast on September 16, according to the volunteers.
“If a landmine explodes, we will die or be severely wounded. That’s why we don’t want to go back to our home,” she said. “Once the landmine clearing process is complete, we have decided that we will return immediately.”
While the displaced families wait in limbo for the opportunity to return home safely, they remain in need of vital aid.
Ko Aung Kyaw Soe, a volunteer near the Thai border, said that supplies, especially food, clothes and stationery for children, are short. He added that the Tatmadaw should try to clear the landmines quickly.
“Some aid groups think that they don’t need to provide any more aid as the fighting has ended. They need to know that the villagers still need assistance and donations,” he said.
The fighting was sparked by the DKBA splinter group’s announcement on August 31 that they would escalate their offensive efforts if the Tatmadaw and BGF kept harassing their troops. The death of DKBA leader Major Na Ma Kyar in late August is also believed to be a cause of the clashes.
On September 23, the Tatmadaw released a statement announcing the end of fighting between the forces following the seizure of all the DKBA splinter militia’s bases.
According to the Tatmadaw’s statement, during the 19 separate clashes, four DKBA troops were killed and a number of senior military officials and troops were killed or wounded.