Myanmar Military Stops Aid Group From Delivering Rice to Kachin State Refugees

A members of the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society Group says it had permission from the state government to enter Sadone.

Ethnic Lisu people wait for the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society Group to deliver bags of rice to their internally displaced persons camp in Sadone, northern Myanmar’s Kachin state, Aug. 20, 2017.

The Myanmar military has stopped a prominent domestic activist and aid group from delivering rice to war refugees in a camp in Kachin state, even though there are no hostilities between the government army and ethnic militias in the area.

Soldiers on Sunday stopped cars driven by members of the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society Group, formerly known as the pro-democracy 88 Generation Student Group, from transporting bags of rice to ethnic Lisu people living in an internally displaced persons camp in the northern state’s Sadone area

They left their villages during a recent flare-up of hostilities between the Myanmar army and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), one of Myanmar's ethnic armed militias. The two armies have been engaged in fighting in the state, which is home to many of the country’s estimated 700,000 members of the Lisu ethnic minority.

Mie Mie, an activist and a prominent member of the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society Group — known for its activism against a previous military junta that ruled the country — told RFA’s Myanmar Service that troops prevented members from entering the area to deliver the rice, though the group had received permission from the Kachin state government.

More than 500 internally displaced persons, including 100 children, are staying at the camp.

“We were stopped by the Regional Military Command at Washaung gate,” Mie Mie said. “They [soldiers] said we could go to the camps, but not deliver the rice at the moment because they would have to ask higher authorities.”

The group was accompanied by the ethnic Burman and Lisu affairs ministers from the Kachin state government and representatives from some of the state’s civil society organizations, she said.

“We hope we can deliver the rice to Sadone in a couple of days,” Mie Mie said.

The group has already delivered bags of rice to internally displaced persons in camps in the areas of Namti and Washaung and is planning to send some to a refugee camp in the Tanaing area, she said.

In June, fighting between government soldiers and the KIA forced thousands of people to flee the seven wards that comprise the Tanaing gold and amber mining region in Kachin state’s Tanaing township.

A month later, government troops clashed again with KIA soldiers in the state’s Indawgyi region, though no casualties were reported at the time.

The Myanmar government is trying to end decades of ethnic separatist civil wars and forge peace in the country through a series of peace negotiations launched last August by de facto national leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The KIA was invited as an observer rather than a participant to the second and most recent peace conference in May, because the group, along with seven other militias, has not signed the government’s nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA).

The KIA was one of four ethnic armed groups belonging to an umbrella organization for militias which have not signed the NCA that recently split from the body over a disagreement about the pact.

Reported by Kyaw Thu for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.