Hundreds Flee Mining Area in Myanmar’s Kachin State to Comply With Army Evacuation Order

New hostilities force workers from the Tanaing gold and amber mining region to return to their hometowns in other parts of the country.

Myanmar residents displaced by clashes between the government army and ethnic minority militias stand in front of their temporary shelter near Lung Byeng village, Waimaw township, in northern Myanmar's Kachin state, Jan. 21, 2017.

About 400 people who work in the Tanaing gold and amber mining region of northern Myanmar’s Kachin state arrived on Tuesday night in the town of Hkamti to comply with a national military order to evacuate the resource-rich area by June 15, local officials said.

The Myanmar army dropped warning letters by helicopter in the region on June 5, telling mine workers and others living there to leave by mid-June to make way for a clearance operation following a new round of fighting with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), an ethnic militia, that began two days earlier.

The fliers warned that if residents failed to leave the area by June 15, the military would consider them to have connections to the KIA, sources told RFA’s Myanmar Service on June 7.

A total of 5,000 resident and mine workers who had migrated to the mining area from other parts of Myanmar have left the area and are staying temporarily on ships and boats and in guesthouses as they make their way back to their hometowns in Homalin, Mawlaik, Paungbyin, Minkin, Katha, and Mandalay, local officials said.

They are also staying elsewhere in Tanaing township in Kachin state’s Myitkyina district, they said.

“More than 300 people on five boats arrived in Hkamti between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. last night,” said Thuta Soe, deputy director of Hkamti’s Relief and Resettlement Department. “They stayed at guesthouses and on ships and will continue to travel to their hometowns in the morning. The boats have to dock overnight in Hkamti because they can’t be operated at night.”

Sa Willi France, director of the Relief and Resettlement Department, said 370 people from the Tanaing gold and amber region arrived in Hkamti on Tuesday night.

“Some of them have returned to their hometowns, and more will arrive in Hkamti tonight,” he told RFA’s Myanmar Service. “We arranged for them to stay overnight in two monasteries, but they didn’t stay there.”

Instead, they stayed on ships that travel daily between Hkamti and Monywa in northwestern Myanmar’s Sagaing region, he said.

Hundreds of other people fled the mining area last week and sought shelter in Christian churches and Buddhist monasteries.

Not only migrant workers, but also local businesses and the KIA are dependent on the region’s amber and gold mining activities as a source of income.

Reported by Thiri Min Zin for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.