10 Jun 2014 14:04
Kachin State, Burma
Tens of thousands in Burma's Kachin state have been forced from their homes as fighting continues between Burmese government forces and the autonomist guerrilla group, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). The ethnic Kachin, from the mountainous north of Burma, speak a different language than that of Burma’s Bamar majority and are also Christian, in contrast with the country's Buddhist majority. Since 1961, both sides have been at war for political and economic control over the Kachin state, which is rich in natural resources.
While there is hope that a dialogue between the government and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO, the political wing of the KIA) will bear fruit, sporadic fighting continues and it is taking a huge toll on the local population. Many fields are strewn with landmines and tens of thousands of Kachin have had to relocate to temporary camps.
Most of these internally displaced people (IDPs) are sheltered in camps within the strip of territory along the Chinese border controlled by the KIO/KIA. There are also some camps in government controlled zones. For almost two years, the Burmese government has blocked any international aid to the IDPs and they have had to rely solely on help provided by local organizations. Many have been living in camps since the fighting resumed and are losing all hope of ever returning home.
In government-controlled areas, some IDPs have been arrested on spurious charges of collaboration with the KIA and tortured under detention. This has created a climate of fear in camps that are closely watched by Burmese security forces.