Burma army blocks access to trapped villagers in Kachin state's Hpakant

Burma army's LID 66 soldiers (left) and KIA battalion 6 soldiers in Hpakant, western Kachin state, northern Burma

Burma army forces blocked a delegation of church leaders and prominent businessmen from visiting villagers trapped by the fighting in Kachin state's jade rich Hpakant district, a member of the delegation tells the Kachinnews. Lamai Gum Ja, a member of the Peace-talk Creation Group (PCG), a committee comprised of prominent Kachin businessmen who are assisting the peace process told Kachinnews that his group wanted to meet the villagers as they are worried about the villagers well being.

The commander of Burma Army’s Light Infantry Division 66 has repeatedly refused to allow access to the group of more than 1,000 villagers who are caught up in the recent fighting between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Burma army, in Hpakant, a jade rich area of western Kachin state.

“The commander denied permission to meet with the villagers. He said there's no security there and they need to clear land mines. We asked about the villagers food supply and he said that the army will provide for them. I don’t know how they will take care of this” Lamai Gum Ja said.

The group consisting of more than 1,000 villagers has fled from their homes to another village, Gin Si but the army has so far refused to allow them to be freed, a pastor from Hpakant township told Kachinnews.

Villagers took shelter in a nearby church when the fighting started. Many of them became very scared when bullets hit the church so they were encouraged to run from that place, according to the pastor who spoke on condition of anonymity. “At first over 400 people ran out of the village but they were stopped by the Burma army on their way. They could only pass the check point after negotiating with the army division,” the pastor said.

Later another group of over 700 villagers also fled from the area. Both groups are now sheltering at four Christian Church compounds in Ginsi village.

“Over 1000 people arrived in the village and Ginsi villagers have become refugees now too. We have aid and supplies for them such as warm clothes, blankets, medicine and food but the Burma army did not allow us to meet with the villagers” the pastor said.

The Global Times newspaper, a state owned Chinese daily published a story earlier this week that said that hundreds of Chinese people were also caught up in the fighting in Hpakant. This story was later denied by Chinese government officials. However many people in Kachin state say the original report was in fact accurate.