Rangers Provide Relief in Northern Kachin State
6 March 2018
Kachin State, Burma
The Burma Army in Kachin State spent the first half of 2017 readying and resupplying after a 2016 offensive in which they captured Gidon Post north of Laiza, effectively splitting the Kachin Independence Army’s (KIA) northern brigades from the KIA headquarters and from the southern brigades as well. The refortified Burma Army then increased ground attacks and air assaults into northern Shan State and began fresh attacks throughout Danai Township, northwest of the Kachin State capital of Myitkyina.
On the morning of June 3rd, heavy gunfire alerted Danai villagers to fighting between the Burma Army and the KIA’s 2nd Brigade, 14th Battalion, based in Danai. Civilians fled their homes with their families, frightened by mortars and artillery shells that rained down around the villages. Almost 3000 villagers became Internally Displaced People (IDPs) as they fled to churches, monasteries, temples and the jungle to find security and safety. This marked the beginning of an early-monsoon season offensive not far from the mineral-rich jade and gold mining areas of Hpakant Township, one that had been expected by the KIA.
The Free Burma Rangers responded by sending a relief team to assist the new IDPs with food, medicine and tarpaulins to act as shelter, as well as building large bamboo buildings for as many families as they could. The mission lasted one week before relief supplies and funding were exhausted.
Six months later, Burma Army attacks continue to occur daily, disrupting the lives of civilians living throughout Danai Township and the Hpakant mining areas. Civilians have been killed by Burma Army airstrikes, mortars, artillery, small arms fire and landmines. The Burma Army steals private property and arbitrarily detains, arrests and tortures civilians, who are often, by association of ethnicity alone, linked with the KIA, that favors self-determination and fights to protect the people. Civilians often suffer extortion while daily passing through Burma Army checkpoints, and farmers caring for their livestock or harvesting rice fields risk falling victim to passing patrols or skirmishes.
In December 2017, Kachin Rangers returned to Danai with a mission of bringing warm clothes and blankets to help IDPs survive the cold winter temperatures. As the Kachin people are predominantly Christian, the Rangers were motivated to bring the IDPs a special moment of hope and joy on Christmas Day, especially to the children.
Six senior Rangers headed to Danai loaded with extra supplies the week before Christmas. They brought medicine and money to bring help, hope, and love to the IDPs trapped outside of Danai Town. The Kachin Baptist Church (KBC) supports two camps consisting of 127 families (450 people), the Roman Catholic (RC) church supports a camp of 31 families (102 people), and there are two camps totaling 94 families that are controlled by the Burma Army.
The Rangers operated a makeshift medical clinic and conducted Good Life Club programs with the children in each of the camps they visited. The GLC programs were often half or whole day programs, with Rangers singing songs, performing skits, and playing all sorts of games with the kids, while also teaching basic health and hygiene care. The GLC programs end in prayer. These programs are designed to give hope, love, encouragement, and guidance to children who have suffered from the traumas of war by providing a day for them to forget their nightmares, to have fun and return to a feeling of normalcy. At the end of the day, all the kids are given GLC t-shirts and sweatshirts along with snacks and drinks.
On Christmas morning the Rangers attended church services with the IDPs. After the service, they purchased two pigs for the large KBC camps and one pig for the RC camp to roast for Christmas dinner. While the adults were preparing a Christmas feast they hadn’t expected, the Rangers spent the afternoon playing sports and games and singing songs with the kids. The Kachin relief team leader said that Christmas Day was a special holiday for the villagers, children and all IDPs in the camps.
The ten-day long mission included distribution of hundreds of bags of food, cooking supplies, blankets and warm clothes. FBR also purchased a generator for a KBC camp, bought cement, PVC piping and brick to build a hygiene washroom, purchased bamboo to make sleeping floors for the new shelters and bought cement and sandstone to build a cistern. Lastly, FBR paid for an IDP woman to have an emergency caesarean section and gave the local pastor a donation to his church.
At the IDP camps the Rangers interviewed camp leaders and various families who fled their homes to document their experience and help them tell their stories. Many of the churches and temples were cramped due to the large number of IDPs who cannot return to their homes because of the continued clashes in their villages. IDPs would like to build more permanent camps, but the Burma Government will not allow them to.
The Burma Army has over 1000 troops operating in the KIA’s 14 Battalion area, consisting of Burma Army Light Infantry Battalion 297, 298, 238, 37 and 101. Infantry Battalion 318 and Division 99 also have been deployed to the area. FBR learned that the Burma Army is utilizing civilian trucks and vehicles to transport troops, supplies and weapons and to prevent attacks by the KIA. Human rights abuses and war crimes continue unabated against civilians throughout Danai Township, and the Kachin Rangers will continue to report on them as they happen, as well as bringing help, hope and love.