Burma: Thousands of people have fled renewed fighting between Myanmar’s army and ethnic insurgents in the country’s remote north.
More than 4,000 people have been displaced in the country’s northern-most state of Kachin near the border with China in the last three weeks, the head of UN’s office for the co-ordination of humanitarian affairs (OCHA), Mark Cutts, said on Friday.
“We have received reports from local organisations saying that there are still many civilians who remain trapped in conflict-affected areas,” Cutts said.
“Our biggest concern is for the safety of civilians – including pregnant women, the elderly, small children and people with disabilities. We must ensure that these people are protected.”
The numbers do not include some 15,000 people who have fled since the beginning of the year, and more than 90,000 living in camps in both Kachin and Shan states since a ceasefire between the government and the powerful Kachin Independence Army rebel group broke down in 2011.
OCHA has been unable to verify reports civilians have been killed in the fighting. A Myanmar government spokesman could not be reached for comment.
The US embassy in Yangon said on Facebook on Friday it is “deeply concerned about intensified fighting in Kachin state, which has forced thousands of people to flee their homes”.
“We urge all parties to cease fighting. We call upon the government, including the military, to protect civilian populations and allow humanitarian assistance to be delivered to those affected by the conflicts,” the post said..
In addition to the Rohingya Muslim crisis in the western part of mainly Buddhist Myanmar, the country’s conflict-hit north has also played host to clashes involving other ethnic minorities, which rarely make headlines.
The Kachin, who mostly live in the country’s northern-most state , make up more than 6% of Christians in Myanmar, the second largest religious group after Buddhists, according to census figures.
The country’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, said making peace was her priority when she took office in 2016 after decades of military rule but progress has been slow.