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Kachin Rebels Live in Limbo as War with Burma Drags On

Daniel Schearf

Burma’s army and ethnic Kachin rebels have been fighting since June, when they broke a 17-year-old cease-fire. The move sent tens of thousands of civilians fleeing into makeshift refugee camps. Rights groups accuse authorities of preventing aid from reaching camps in rebel-held territory. 

Four hundred Kachin refugees get regular donations of food and other aid at a Catholic-run camp. The youngest were born while in the camp, enlarging families that fled fighting between the Burmese military and the Kachin Independence Army.

Some have lost friends or relatives in the conflict. Others, like farmer Nar San Too, were themselves injured.

“While I was looking for mushrooms in the forest one morning in July last year, a landmine exploded…I stepped on the wire cable of the mine and it exploded beside me," he explains.

Tin Tun Kwut Nan says she and her eight family members fled Nan San Village after it was attacked.

“We ran from our village in fear," she says. "I don’t know exactly how many villagers were killed.  Our village was burnt down by Burma’s Army.”

The refugees are supported by donations from local officials, a local Catholic church, and the World Food Program.

Volunteer food coordinator Daw Kyar Phyu says most arrived in October and come from 10 different villages.

“They will go back to their villages when there is peace. Now, they are worried for their security so they will not go back their villages where there is no peace yet,” she says.

Although they are unable to return home, these refugees are still better off than the estimated 30,000 in rebel-controlled areas, where the government has cut-off food deliveries, apart from just a few U.N.aid convoys.

The last delivery in March contained only enough food to feed a few thousand for one month.


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