A local militia in the northern Myanmar town of Waingmaw has started clearing out refugees who have been staying on its land since 2012 when they were displaced by hostilities between ethnic rebels and the government army, villagers and a lawmaker from Kachin state said Thursday.
The militia asked half of the 70 households on its land to move elsewhere because it needs the acreage for planting crops, the villagers said.
Soldiers then used bulldozers to destroy houses and other buildings used by the refugees, they said, prompting them to seek help from a state lawmaker.
“People came to me and asked me to help them,” said parliamentarian Zakhaung Kham Yal. “I wrote a letter about their situation and sent it to the state government. I also sent copies to the state’s security and border affairs minister and the chairman of the state parliament.”
Some members of the militia told RFA that Colonel Myo Tin, Kachin state’s minister of security and border affairs, will visit the area.
More than 200 internally displaced persons comprising the 70 households have been living in Waingmaw since 2012.
The local militia led by Colonel Lasan Aung War, former intelligence chief of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), broke with the KIO and its armed wing the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in 2004 when an attempted coup forced his expulsion.
His armed faction settled in the Gwayhtu region of Waingmaw township after the group signed a cease-fire agreement with the government.
The KIA, which controls large swathes of northeastern Kachin state, has regularly engaged in hostilities with the Myanmar army since a cease-fire deal collapsed in 2011.
Last November, the KIA teamed up with three other ethnic armed groups—the Arakan Army (AA), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA)—to form the Northern Alliance.
The alliance then launched coordinated attacks on 10 government and military targets in three townships in neighboring Shan state and along the105-mile border trade zone between Myanmar and China in retaliation for government army offensives against its soldiers.
An End to Forced Tolls
Meanwhile, soldiers from another militia in Muse township of Myanmar’s volatile northern Shan state has stopped seeking tolls from and confiscating the cell phones of drivers along Muse Road since Tuesday, a district administrator said.
“They had damaged the wheels of trucks” traveling along a major thoroughfare that heavy vehicles transporting goods for trade use to enter southwestern China, Muse district administrator Kyaw Kyaw Tun told RFA.
“They didn’t do anything to drivers, but took their money and phones,” he said, blaming Northern Alliance soldiers for harassing and stealing from truck drivers.
A spokesman for the Northern Alliance denied that soldiers from the organization were involved, and pointed a finger at government army troops instead.
“We sometimes stop buses and trucks for passengers’ security, but we never ask for money,” said Colonel Ta Aik Kyaw of the TNLA. “Government army soldiers have sometimes dressed in our [TNLA] uniforms and asked [motorists] for money.”
Kachin and Shan states are hotbeds of illegal drug and smuggling activities where ethnic rebels have engaged in periodic hostilities with the Myanmar army during the last few years.
Reported by Kyaw Myo Min, Thet Su Aung, and Wai Mar Tun for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.