As the Myanmar army's bombs started falling near her home in Kachin state, Nlam Numrang Doi and her neighbors decided they had no choice but to grab what they could and scatter into the jungle.
"We were in so much trouble, I couldn't even swallow my food," the 92-year-old recalled. "If we stayed in the village, we didn't know what could happen to us."
She climbed onto her grandson's back and he carried her to a river where she and nearly 800 other villagers boarded boats to reach the state capital, part of a wave of 6,800 people who have fled their homes in Kachin since a fresh government offensive began in early April.
The onslaught is part of a decades-long government campaign to defeat Kachin rebels fighting for greater autonomy for the largely Christian minority group in Myanmar's far north. The intensified offensive has renewed accusations that the army is creating a similar humanitarian crisis in Kachin to the one spawned by its violence against Rohingya Muslims in the country's west.
"What we are seeing in Kachin state over the past few weeks is wholly unacceptable, and must stop immediately," Yanghee Lee, the U.N.'s human rights expert for Myanmar, said last week. "Innocent civilians are being killed and injured, and hundreds of families are now fleeing for their lives."
"All parties must take all necessary measures to ensure their safety and security," she demanded.
A 17-year cease-fire between the government and Kachin Independence Army was broken in 2011, when the army entered rebel territory and attacked one of their outposts. Since then, sporadic fierce combat has uprooted villagers and left hundreds of civilians dead.
The fresh exodus of villagers is adding to the 100,000 people previously displaced in Kachin and neighboring Shan state, many of whom live in camps where people already have difficulty obtaining food and clean water due to military restrictions on aid.
Gumsha Awng of the Joint Strategy Team for Humanitarian response, a coalition of humanitarian groups in Kachin, said the army has been blocking international aid shipments to the region, a similar tactic it used with the Rohingya.
The government has denied virtually all access to the area for the United Nations and international humanitarian groups.
Those fleeing their rural villages try to seek the relative safety of the state capital, Myitkyina, which is under government control, or rebel-held cities where they can seek aid from church groups. Some who have fled, however, have found themselves stuck in a jungle no man's land unable to find a safe route out of the war zone....