Civilians who recently returned to their village may have to abandon it again after escalating tensions between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the regime’s military near the former group’s Waingmaw headquarters in Kachin State.
“It has been a challenge to rebuild our village. If we flee again, we are not sure if we can return, that’s why we have been reluctant to leave,” said an anonymous source from Namsan Yang, who preferred to remain unnamed. But after hearing gunshots at 5am on Monday morning near the village, she said they are making preparations to flee. The elderly and children are already taking refuge in Waingmaw and Myitkyina towns.
Col Naw Bu, spokesperson of the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), which is the KIA’s political arm, told KNG the enemy fired 120mm mortar at Hka Ya and Bum Len hills from a bridge near the village. “I am not sure whether they want to re-take their old hill-top camps or if they will try to take control of Namsan Yang,” he said. Naw Bu hopes there won’t be more clashes in the village, which was the scene of intense fighting in 2011.
After living in displaced camps for almost eight years, residents returned in December of 2018 on the condition that the armed groups wouldn’t deploy troops near their village. They blamed the regime for causing the current standoff with the KIA after sending its soldiers to the area on September 2022 and on June and in July in 2023.
Since 16 June, tensions between the armed groups have been rising when the KIA blocked regime soldiers from travelling to the village near the Chinese border.
U Hpaula Gam Hpang, who mediated the villager’s return, was planning to visit Namsan Yang on Monday, residents said. But KNG couldn’t confirm whether this happened or if he met with the KIO.
Naw Bu warned of heavy fighting if the regime’s forces keep advancing into its area.