Friday, August 18, 2017

N’gaga villagers hope for end of fighting and return home

Families from N’gaga village who fled the increasing military tension in Tanai’s resource-rich mines and nearby villages say they want end of fighting between Tatamadaw and ethnic Kachin armed group to return home as hundreds of workers and residents from gold and amber mines and at least four villages are temporarily being given shelter in Tanai.

Kachin IDPs at Kachin Baptist Convention Church (Tanai branch) in Tanai, Kachin State, on June 14. Kaung Htet / The Myanmar TimesKachin IDPs at Kachin Baptist Convention Church (Tanai branch) in Tanai, Kachin State, on June 14. Kaung Htet / The Myanmar Times

After fighting erupted near N’gaga village that is about 20 miles from Tanai in the Southwestern region and falls under the controlled area of Kachin Independence Army, families of around 150 residents left their village.

Tu Shan, a preacher who has worked at N’gaga village since four years ago said he was really sad to see the fleeing of the villagers.

“We were too afraid when we heard the fighting sound,” he said. We wish the fighting ends soon and return home safely,” he said.

The residents and workers fleeing the fighting are currently given shelters at churches and monasteries while some people are temporarily residing at their relatives and friends’ houses in Tanai township.

Due to the turnout in the number of the fleers and their shift to their desired destination, the exact total sum of the residents and workers fleeing the fighting could not be recorded. While some workers are from Lower part of Myanmar, some are from Tanai, Myit Kyina and other areas in the Kachin State.

However, as with the figure of the rescue committee formed by all denominations of churches in downtown Tanai, the number of people temporarily residing at Kachin Baptist Convention’s Tanai branch is 429, while Roman Catholic church hosts 153, Assembly of God (AG) have 139 and Anglican church 16.

Rev Dabang Je Di, an official in charge of the rescue committee formed by all denominations of churches said nearly 400 have left the camps for their preferred places since the earliest time of their arrival on June 4, one day after fighting broke out in N’gaga village.

Meanwhile, local authority has told the rescue committee of churches at least three times to send the people who fled the fighting to Myitkyina, but the committee keeps giving shelter to the people.

“They do not guarantee the safety of these people. When we asked them why they tell us so, they said they don’t want the temporary shelter to become the camps of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs),” said Rev Dabang Je Di.

The authority who told the church officials to send the villagers to Myitkyina includes Tanai’s township administrator U Tun Tun and a military officer from the Regional Command Control that bases in Tanai.

Rev Je Di also said that ruling NLD party has yesterday donated 70 packages of rice to the camp of KBC’s Tanai church. He also said the church is using its fund to provide foods for the displaced people.

On June 5, a military helicopter spread the letters warning the mine workers from 10 mines to leave the areas not later than June 15, today with the reason that these are not officially allowed by the government and are damaging the environment and ecosystem.

According to local residents, the Tatmadaw’s warning letter also said it would conduct clearance operations in the areas after the deadline is over. Unless the areas are not abandoned, those remaining there would be deemed as cooperating to the KIA, said the military warning letter, said the residents.

The rescue committee requested the township administrative department on June 6 to send motored ships for rescuing the people in the mines after the spread of the military’s warning letter, and are trapped in the already intensifying military tension between KIA and Tatmadaw.

As the armed tension has escalated, KIA has also imposed restrictions on the time of traveling or transportation on where some routes- Moe Kaung – Karmine, Lawa-Karmine, Karmine-Hpakant and Hwaikha-Hpakant should not be used between 7 pm to 6 am.

Bawm Lwi, 31 and a school teacher from N’gaga at church-based education center that has about 40 students and teaches up to grade 5, said the school was forced to close due to the fighting.

“We don’t want fighting as our children’s classes are disrupted,” she said.

As today (June 15) is the last day of the military warning to move from the mines and with the already intensified military tension, the displaced villagers said they are afraid that fighting would break out.

It is not known how many workers and villagers still remain in the mines – Htanplar, Wunplar, Awnglut, Tonemani, Chaungsone, Nangbyu, Jarawngbar, Ziphyugone, Nyaungbingone and Namkwan, and nearby villages.

More than 17 years of bilateral ceasefire agreement between KIA and government broke down when skirmishes erupted on June 9, 2011.

Fighting reached a peak in Kachin State mountainous areas earlier this month when Tatmadaw launched heavy military operations against the KIA and captured its strategic posts including Gidon.