Civilians displaced by the conflict at the foot of Lon Ja Bum have returned to their homes after the military threatened to burn them down if they didn’t move back to their villages that are currently occupied by soldiers.
Last month, fighting displaced nearly 1,000 villagers from Lon Ja and Nawng Poung after the junta launched an offensive against the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the People’s Defence Force at the top of the mountain in Momauk Township. Most of the villagers escaped the violence by fleeing to Momauk town until the junta made them go back home.
In order to save their homes, many have submitted to the army’s orders to return by 15 November. “Soldiers stay in every house in our villages, so we are forced to live together even though we are terrified of them,” a man who had recently gone back told KNG, while asking that his name be kept confidential out of concern for his safety. There are 200 houses in both villages and 400 soldiers.
Having failed to capture the KIA camp despite the use of air strikes and a large ground force, the military may have forced the villagers to return to use them as human shields during its offensive against the Kachin soldiers, as has happened many times since last year’s coup.