Food relief needed for thousands displaced after Kayin skirmishes

By MRATT KYAW THU | FRONTIER

YANGON — Thousands of villagers relocated ahead of renewed clashes in Kayin State are in need of food supplies, local sources say, after renewed skirmishes this week forced hundreds more from their homes.

Clashes began between a splinter group of the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army and a joint detachment of Tatmadaw and Border Guard Force soldiers on September 2.

Officials in Hlaingbwe said Wednesday that around 4,000 people had now left their homes Mae Tha Waw and Myaing Gyi Ngu to seek refuge elsewhere in the state. Most are currently staying at the Myaing Gyi Ngu monastery.

After a week of clashes in the area, locals began leaving their homes on September 9.

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U Naing Zaw Win, the township administrator for Hlaingbwe, said Myanmar authorities had directed villagers to vacate the area in anticipation of renewed fighting this week.

“There are no more displaced people coming now, I think that is all from that area,” he told Frontier. “[Government] forces cleared the area where they had to fight. Then they just started fighting.”

Other sources and news reports have claimed the DKBA organised the relocations. Frontier was unable to independently confirm which side was responsible for the evacuation of the two villages.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said a smaller group of villagers had fled across the border to Thailand’s Tak province in order to take shelter with relatives.

Naing Zaw Win said concerns remained over provision of food supplies for those who left their homes if clashes continued.

Local authorities have led the relief response for those who remained in Myanmar with contributions from private individuals and organisations, UNHCR spokesperson Kasita Rochanakorn told Frontier.

She added that the UNHCR was “ready to provide any necessary material and protection assistance” if needed.

Myaing Gyi Ngu Sayadaw, an influential local abbot who has recently come under criticism for building stupas in locations encroaching on Christian churches, was among those who rallied assistance to the villagers. At his urging, according to local reports, 100 cars were sent to collect people from the villagers in the days before fighting resumed.

As of Friday, Union Parliament has not issued a statement on the conflict.

“I have no plan yet to submit an urgent motion to the parliament,” said U Khin Cho, the National League for Democracy lawmaker representing Hlaingbwe in the Pyithu Hluttaw. “We have to discuss with regional MPs and the regional government first. I’m sure they are trying to do something.”

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