Roads Blocked and Rice Running Out For Kutkai IDPs

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Internally displaced people (IDPs) in northern Shan State’s Kutkai Township are primarily in need of rice as resources are running out, local sources said.

According to local volunteer Mine Mai, volunteers and monks are feeding IDPs in monasteries and churches where villagers who have managed to escape recent fighting are now seeking refuge. According to the most recent updates, there are more than 1,000 IDPs in Kutkai.

“Kutkai is not an agriculture area. Locals used to buy rice from Hsenwi. Now there are many people living in downtown Kutkai, so rice sellers cannot sell enough rice,” Mine Mai explained. “Roads are blocked to this area. It’s really difficult to buy rice in Kutkai,” Mine Mai, who lives in Kutkai, said to NMG.

She added that there is also a shortage of drinking water for some IDPs, like the 300 on Garlai Road. Civil society groups from Hsipaw and Lashio are providing assistance, with the Kutkai-Lashio road partly opened.

“The Muse-Kutkai road is still closed. It’s still blocked. Some people are trapped between Mong Yu Lay and Namphetka villages. We cannot yet pick them up,” Mine Mai told NMG.

Volunteer teams in Kutkai, Hsipaw and Lashio evacuated more than 170 villagers who were trapped in Mang Nawng and Kawn Hser village in Kutkai Township on August 21.

Ethnic Ta’ang civil society groups estimated that there are some 4,862 IDPs who have arrived in Lashio, Hsengwi and Kutkai towns since August 15. It was at this time that clashes between the Burma Army and the joint forces of the Arakan Army, Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) intensified in northern Shan State.

The TNLA reported that the joint forces clashed with the Burma Army near the village of Mang Pun on August 21 after government forces sent reinforcement troops with more than 100 military vehicles to the area from Mandalay one day earlier.

On August 21, Ta’ang civil society also released a statement highlighting the need for emergency aid for IDPs voicing concern about interethnic tension as a result of the fighting.

“Many people are criticizing a specific ethnic group rather than the armed organization. It can impact interethnic relationships, as well as peace,” a spokesperson for the Ta’ang Women’s Organization told NMG.

Locals and civil society in northern Shan State have demanded that civilians and their property not be targeted in fighting, and that roads not be blocked.

“We want both the army and EAOs [ethnic armed organizations] to stop the war as soon as possible. They need to seek a political solution through dialogue rather than solving problems by military means,” the TWO representative said.