Travel restrictions tightened in Hlaingbwe as concern grows over food supplies


MYAING GYI NYU, Kayin State — Residents who fled their homes earlier this month in Kayin State following recent clashes have told Frontier they are being blocked from returning by the military and remain concerned about dwindling food supplies.

Travel restrictions have tightened in the last week, according to local school headmaster Sai Myo Nyunt, who has helped with administration of the Myaing Gyi Nyu monastery after thousands of villagers began taking shelter there.

After being ordered to leave their homes on September 9, some villagers had been periodically returning to their homes to check on livestock and crops, but Myo Nyunt said the military had put a stop to the temporary returns.

“At the moment it is alright, we have enough food, but we are worried they will face shortages in the long run,” he told Frontier on Wednesday.

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Myaing Gyi Nyu and Mae Tha Waw in Hlaingbwe Township have seen periodic clashes since September 2, with a splinter group of the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army battling against Border Guard Force soldiers backed by the Tatmadaw. The origins and the instigator of the conflict remain unclear.

Private benefactors have been donating food supplies to the displaced group, while Myaing Gyi Nyu Sayadaw rallied private transport to evacuate villagers to his monastery on the weekend of September 9.

U Nay Lin Htet, a deputy township administrator, said the travel restrictions were in place for the safety of the villagers, as future skirmishes remained possible despite a recent lull in the conflict.

He said a headcount at the monastery had tallied more than 5,000 people taking shelter from the conflict as of Wednesday.

Another group of villagers has travelled across the border to take shelter with relatives in Thailand, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees told Frontier on September 16.

Myaing Gyi Nyu Hospital nurse Daw Nan Thazin said that while the hospital had not been overwhelmed with patients, the lack of proper sanitation for such a large influx of people was a potential health risk.

Total civilian casualties in the wake of the conflict are unknown but so far appear to be minimal.

Nan Thazin said a 43-year-old village administrator had died from gunshot wounds near the battlefront, while two women had miscarried from the stress of the evacuation and required blood transfusions.

“If peace comes quickly, I hope they can go back home soon,” she said.

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