Putao IDP: We’ve Lost Hope For Our Future

KNG spoke to one of the 5,000 civilians forced to flee recent fighting between the military and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), backed by a People’s Defence Force (PDF), in Putao Township, where many people now live in jungle camps in northern Kachin State.

Can you provide an update about the internally displaced persons (IDP) who fled the clashes near Lon Shar Yang, village-tract and around N’se Yang and Hpert Mar villages?

The Burma Army (BA) has launched an offensive against the KIA and the PDF in Putao area using heavy weapons and flying airstrikes in the area. Shelling has landed near civilian villages. Because of this, some people have sought refuge in Putao town, but many have fled into the jungle. Some people have also fled to Myitkyina to seek shelter. Some people have returned to their village to check their homes and then return to their jungle camp.

How many people are sleeping in the jungle? How many days have y’all been there?

Most of the IDPs are senior citizens and children. We live in a bamboo hut with a plastic roof. A few people go to check the situation in the village and then return to the jungle camp. They go to get food from our village. When it rains, it’s very difficult living here. It was very hard running away from our village; we didn’t have any time to prepare to leave. Some elderly people couldn’t walk that long. We asked for help, however, nobody could pick us up because the price of petrol in Putao has soured. We feel desperate and broken. And we’ve lost hope for our future.

Can you tell us what’s going to happen? What’s the current situation on the ground? Do you expect that it’ll get worse?

I think the clashes will continue in our area because the the BA column is still present in our area. I heard they’ve already installed artillery and mortars in Hpert Mar village. We’ve padlocked our house and left our animals inside. Both armies are very close to each other and we worry about fighting happen inside of our village.

What kind of assistance do the IDPs need?

We need tarps and dried food. Although, we can get rice from our village, we still cannot send it to the mill. We mainly need food rations, tarps and medicine.

How many have fled to the jungle and how many to Putao town?

The Lisu have gone to Putao. And there’s about 100 IDPs in our jungle camp, mainly elderly, women and children.

How many villages in Putao have fled?

All the people from Hpert Mar village have fled to Putao. There are more than 800 houses in the Lon Shar Yang village area. People from Mazup Yang, Tang Ja Yang, Wadat, Masuam Zup, Sumpyi Yang, Madi Yang, N’seng Yang and Dindu Yang villages have all fled the fighting. I think there’s more than 5,000 people living in the jungle. In Sumpyi Yang and Madi Yang, there’s no one left.

The fighting has been going on for three weeks now. Do you know how many clashes and deaths there have been?

Until 22 February, I think there have already been more than ten clashes but can’t say for sure. I’ve heard that nearly 100 BA soldiers were killed in the clashes. I don’t know how many KIA and PDF soldiers have died. I also heard that soldiers were wounded during the clashes. About 200 BA soldiers are stationed in Sumpyi and Hpert Mar villages.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

We’re worried about our security and that the BA will target our IDP leaders. If these leaders  run away, the other villagers will be very upset. It’s difficult to send rice to the rice mill in our area and the road between Putao and Myitkyina is closed so we’re worried about food shortages soon.

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