RANGOON — Burma Army units carrying out operations against rebels in Kachin State’s Mansi Township detained 14 displaced villagers at a camp near Man Win Gyi town for one night, a local aid worker said.
On Saturday, commanders of the 88th Light Infantry Division entered Lagat Yang camp near Man Win Gyi, a government-controlled town, as they believed there were Kachin Independence Army (KIA) fighters in the camp, said Naw Din, director of the Karuna Myanmar Social Services (KMSS), a local NGO helping displaced villagers.
“They informed our camp leaders that they heard that seven members of KIA went to hide inside the camp. Therefore, they went to search inside the camp and detained 14,” he said. “They were released around 4 pm yesterday. But one person has been detained again an hour after the 14 detained were released.”
The man, named Maru La Awng, was still in custody of the Burma Army as of Monday afternoon, he added.
Lagat Yang camp in eastern Kachin State, close to the border with northern Shan State, is home to about 800 internally displaced persons (IDPs) who fled the Kachin conflict, which has displaced a total of about 120,000 ethnic civilians since 2011.
In mid-April, when the army stepped up its operations against the KIA hundreds of IDPs reportedly fled the camp because of nearby fighting and mortar shelling. About 2,700 Kachin civilians were newly displaced by the recent escalation in fighting in Mansi Township, where clashes are frequently being reported.
Some 5,000 IDPs now stay in three camps near Man Win Gyi town, according Naw Din. He said this weekend’s arrests had disturbed the displaced civilians who live in fear of being detained, harassed or getting affected by the escalation in fighting.
“The most difficult thing here is that the IDPs feel that they have no security as the Burma Army often comes and checks the camp. If KIA and the Burma Army keep coming in the camp, we are worried a lot for the IDPs, they will have no security,” he said.
Since late March tensions between the KIA and government troops have been rising in Mansi Township and northern Shan State after the army insisted on accompanying census teams that would try to carry out work in KIA-controlled areas.
In early April, the situation deteriorated after an incident in which a Burma Army major-general was killed by the KIA near their area of control.
The army then sent more troops to scour through the forested, higher mountain reaches in order to flush out KIA fighters. During ensuing clashes, 14 government troops and eight rebels were killed, state media reported.
The KIA and Ta’ang National Liberation Army operating in nearby Shan State both lack a bilateral ceasefire agreement with the government. Last week the KIA requested a ceasefire meeting with the government this month, but the meeting is yet to be confirmed.