Landmines, security concerns prevent return for Kayin IDPs
ALTHOUGH the guns have fallen silent in Hlaingbwe township, Kayin State, civilians displaced by recent conflict may be unable to return home for several months due to concerns over landmines and fears that hostilities between the Tatmadaw and a Karen armed group could reignite.
The fighting – between a joint contingent of Tatmadaw and Border Guard Force (BGF) troops and a splinter faction of the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army – first flared in the township’s Mae Tha Waw area at the end of August. A statement from the Tatmadaw last month said some senior military officers and troops were killed and wounded during the fighting, while four members of the DKBA splinter group were killed, during 19 clashes between the two sides.
The hostilities sent civilians fleeing in large numbers to the Myaing Gyi Ngu monastery, as well as to the Thai border. According to UNOCHA, more than 5900 people uprooted by the conflict have found shelter at two sites in Myaing Gyi Ngu village. Expecting that the displacement will last two or three months until troops and landmines are cleared for the area, the government and donor groups are building temporary shelters for the thousands of civilians who fled.
U Min Tin Win, the Kayin State minister for social affairs, told The Myanmar Times yesterday that internally displaced persons (IDPs) can return home only after landmines laid in the latest fighting are cleared, with BGF troops currently working to demine the Mae Tha Waw area.
“Now, we are arranging temporary shelters for the refugees. There is a problem of insufficient toilets. So, we have planned to build the temporary shelters with toilets,” he said.
He added that the state government, the Tatmadaw and the Myaing Gyi Nguu abbot are providing IDPs with food supplies and would assist with the rebuilding of schools that were destroyed in the fighting.
“We are supporting as much as we can. Our state government’s budget is a small amount,” said U Min Tin Win.
Ko Myint Aung, a volunteer humanitarian aid worker, said yesterday that IDPs want to go back to their homes but were not being allowed to do so by the Myaing Gyi Ngu abbot and other authorities out of concern for their safety.
“There is no security in the Mae Tha Waw area and the refugees should not go back home yet. Especially, there are a lot of landmines in this area. Now, the refugees are in need of food supplies and clothing,” he said.
According to volunteer aid workers, mosquito nets are also an urgent need for IDPs at the Myaing Gyi Ngu monastery, while those who fled to the Thai border face a more pressing concern in basic food supplies, with few humanitarian aid groups having arrived to assist them.
The precise origins of the recent conflict remain unclear, with some pointing to the death of the DKBA splinter group’s leader, Major Na Ma Kyar, who was killed under mysterious circumstances in late August. The Karen armed group had also complained of its troops being harassed by Tatmadaw and BGF soldiers. The DKBA is itself a splinter faction of the Karen National Union, and both are signatories to the nationwide ceasefire agreement.
The group previously led by the late Maj Na Ma Kyar has not been among the ethnic armed organisations recognised by the government as having a seat at the negotiating table in the national peace process.
‘There is no security in the Mae Tha Waw area and the refugees should not go back home yet.’
Ko Myint Aung Volunteer aid worker