'We Want to Go Back Home'

A refugee from Burma’s northern Kachin state tells of her escape amid ethnic clashes.
2012-03-19
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Kachin children at a refugee camp in Myitsone, northern Burma, Feb. 26, 2012.
AFP

Fierce fighting in the north of Burma between government troops and the ethnic Kachin Independence Army since June last year has displaced an estimated 55,000 people. The Burmese army has been accused of burning villages, shooting civilians and raping women, according to rights groups. Despite ceasefire talks, the fighting continues.

Bauk Jar was forced to flee her Olampa village in Kachin in November and is now living in a refugee camp. She told RFA about her escape from the conflict zone.

“There was very heavy fighting around our village and so we dared not stay there anymore, and ran away. We didn't have time to pack our belongings when we heard [government] troops arriving in our area. When we heard the shooting, we just ran into the forest. We walked all night long and we were very scared.”

She did not wish to reveal the location of their camp, out of fear for safety.

“I was in the forest for two weeks. After those two weeks, we heard heavier fighting, and after one woman, the mother of a week-old baby, was stabbed, our village heads said we were not safe in the forest anymore and that we had to run further. We listened to our village heads and quickly came to this place.”

She said she had heard the woman was killed by government troops.

“We heard she was from Kapla village, about an hour and a half’s walk from our village. She was hiding in the forest and was found by the troops, who accused her of being a KIA soldier and stabbed her. The baby has been sent to the father's family now.”

Bauk Jar’s own family was split apart during their flight from the fighting.

“My family was separated. I have three children. My eldest son just finished his fourth grade exam, my second is in first grade, and the youngest is in preschool. My brother in the Bamaw area found them and is sending them to me now.”

In the camp, there are 188 refugees, including the children. The camp has enough food for everyone to have three meals a day, but health issues are a concern.

“Just yesterday, the children broke out in rashes, and now they are going to the hospital. For some the rash is on the mouth and for some it’s on the whole body,” she said.

The villagers are worried about what will be left of their homes when they go back.

“We heard two of my cows are killed and eaten by the government troops. And one … pig was also killed and eaten. Since there was no one left in the village to carry things as a porter for the military, they took my three donkeys."

She wants to be reunited with her family and return home.

“We are listening to our village heads and when they say it is safe, we will go back. Of course we want to go back home. We left our rice storage and our cattle just as they were and we very much want to go back.”

Reported by Nayrein Kyaw for RFA’s Burmese service. Translated by Khin May Zaw.