Photo via The Irrawaddy
Kachin State is the northernmost state of Burma and is bordered by China to the north and east. Historical tensions between the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) and the Burmese Government have recently intensified, placing civilians at huge risk.
A 17-year ceasefire was broken by Burmese troops in June 2011 and since then conflicts have taken thousands of lives and forced over 100,000 Kachin people from their homes. Much of the fighting has happened in areas rich in natural resources, and stretches of land where large infrastructure projects are taking place.
President Thein Sein’s administration insists that it wants a ceasefire and political discussion, yet over Christmas the government troops started to use heavy artillery, jets and helicopter gunships. Heavy shelling attacks near civilians are now a daily occurrence. Displaced people in the crowded camps are not only terrified, but cut off from aid.
Since the atrocities stepped up in June, Children on the Edge have been researching the situation in Kachin State and talking with local groups to find a way of getting aid to displaced children on the borders near China. With attacks escalating over Christmas, John Littleton, our Asia Regional Manager has brought forward his trip to Kachin State in order to talk with local communities before the situation worsens further. This last week based from the town of Laiza, he has witnessed intensifying conflict including Government jet fighters and helicopters firing on civilian populations. Laiza has become a ghost town with people fleeing for their lives and mortars landing 2km outside of town.
The UN conservatively estimates that more than 10,000 internally displaced people are not receiving sufficient, regular humanitarian assistance. Aid is being restricted to all KIO controlled areas by the Burmese government, so this fact finding mission aims to find a way for Children on the Edge to work under the radar to get aid to displaced communities through our connection with grassroots local partners.
For a recent report on the increased attacks see BBC footage from the conflict zone in Kachin State. For further information about our current work with refugee children from Burma, visit our project pages.