Kachin Leaders to Govt: IDPs Cannot Return Home Before Peace Is Restored

 The sentiments follow State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi’s visit to internally displaced people’s camps in Kachin State.


Saturday, October 27, 2018

Kachin community leaders say that conditions still do not allow internally displaced people (IDPs) in the state to return home, despite recent remarks by State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi that she is trying to make this possible.

Burma’s de-facto leader made a trip to Kachin State during the third week of October, visiting IDP camps outside of the capital, Myitkyina, on October 19.

San Awng, a member of the Kachin-based Peace-talk Creation Group, said that now is not the time to discuss a post-conflict issue like IDP return.

“It’s important to restore peace in the country. It’s important to move the peace process forward,” he told NMG. “The issue of IDPs returning home can be implemented later, through negotiation between the two sides.”

More than 100,000 Kachin IDPs have taken refuge in camps since 2011, when a longstanding ceasefire between the Burma Army and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) broke down.

Clashes continue in Kachin and northern Shan states, and government troops have reportedly occupied villages from which locals have been displaced. Reinforcements continue to be sent by the Tatmadaw to the area.

San Awng added that the area that many displaced communities fled have become “a battleground” and that it has not been cleared of landmines.

“Their houses are damaged—some were burned down. There are many things that still need to be solved,” he explained.

During her visit, Aung San Suu Kyi reportedly told the Kachin State government to share with the Union administration—without hesitation—any needs, problems or difficulties that arise in relation to the displaced communities.

Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) chairman Rev. Hkalam Samson told NMG that while he understands that the government has a “desire” to help, such gestures have, as of yet, been unfulfilled.

“The government cannot do anything,” he said, explaining that in April the KBC tried to rescue IDPs in the conflict area but that the military had “blocked” them in.

“In reality, the Burma Army has launched their military operations in our area. Clashes can occur any time. Because of this, we are not brave enough to go back home,” the Reverend explained.

Others pointed out that the ongoing fighting in Kachin State has been largely instigated by one side.

“There are many clashes, but the KIA doesn’t carry out any offensives—the Burma Army does the military offensives,” said Kachin Democratic Party chairperson Kwam Gawng Awng Kham. “The government could order the army to announce a unilateral ceasefire. If they did that, the process of IDP return would come up,” he added.