Land­mines, se­cu­rity con­cerns pre­vent re­turn for Kayin IDPs

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

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

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