Dis­placed fam­i­lies in Kayin al­lowed to re­turn home af­ter land­mine clear­ance

The Myanmar Times - - News - YE MON yeemon­tun@mm­times.com

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.

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