Despite the ongoing peace negotiations, skirmishes between the Myanmar government armed forces and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) have been increasing. Recently, skirmishes near Nam Lim Pa village forced villagers in the area and the IDPs to flee for safety. They have been isolated and surrounded in this location for over three weeks. Despite appeals by humanitarian organisations, unconditional humanitarian access has not been granted.
We have received news that in early afternoon of Saturday, 16 November 2013, the Myanmar government army has set up camp around the Nam Lim Pa Boarding School, which is hosting 700 students and 34 teachers. These students and teachers were surrounded and blockaded inside the school compound, but an appeal by the Catholic Church has led to their release later in the evening.
This latest battle has also affected the internally displaced persons (IDPs) located around the area, affecting at least 2,300 persons (including Nam Lim Pa villagers). These IDPs have been displaced by earlier skirmishes; so this is their second displacement. The IDPs are moving away from the camp and into surrounding areas. They have been seeking safety in other IDP camps in the Bhamo-Mansi area and in the KIO-controlled area. However, villagers remain trapped in the battle zone – including over 600 IDPs in Sin Khan Gyi Village, which is isolated and not easily accessible.
The urgent key messages to all stakeholders are:
We echo the statement made by the Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General on Myanmar, Mr Vijay Nambiar, that a peaceful solution to the conflicts in Myanmar is a critical priority for the future of the country and its people. Therefore, we urge an immediate cessation of hostilities.
Respect for the international humanitarian law and human rights laws requires that civilians are not exposed to any “violence to life and person,...cruel treatment and torture, outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.”
We insist that all parties to the conflict (the Myanmar government armed forces and the KIA) respect international humanitarian law and human rights, in particular the rights of civilians. All parties must observe the principles of distinction between civilians and combatants and take precaution in the case of attacks to avoid civilian victims.
We further call upon the two parties to the conflict to allow free, unimpeded humanitarian access to the humanitarian NGOs to support all IDPs, regardless of their location.
Safety and protection of the internally displaced persons is an urgent concern. The children and IDPs themselves will have been traumatised by recent experiences. The majority of the IDPs will be seeking safety in the surrounding jungles.
We are extremely concerned for the affected IDP students, teachers and the displaced persons. Most of these persons have already had to move from Mung Ding Pa earlier in the month.
We call upon all international and national humanitarian organisations and the donor community to provide urgently needed humanitarian assistance and advocacy support.
We note that the displaced persons have the following immediate humanitarian needs: protection and safe arrival to other IDP camps; access to foodstuffs, shelter and non-food items (e.g., blankets and warm clothes). These IDPs are seeking safety and have no other resources with them. As the winter season has now begun, the IDPs’ access to proper shelter or warmth is more limited.
The Joint Strategy Team is actively responding to these emerging needs, including the safe transfer of the IDPs.