Northern Shan State IDPs Seek Assistance in Returning Home

IDPs remain cautious about going back to their villages, pointing to the continued concerns of landmines and regional instability.


Friday, February 22, 2019

Authorities in a camp for internally displaced people (IDPs) run by the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) in northern Shan State’s Namkham Township are asking for assistance in returning home.

Hpan La, a leader in the Panglong KBC IDP camp, told NMG that displaced people in the camp are asking for help from the government and from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) so that they can go back to their homes during a four-month unilateral ceasefire declared by the Burma Army in December of last year.

“We will request it to the government, and we will also inform NGOs. We are preparing and planning to return home this coming April,” Hpan La said, referring to the month in which the ceasefire ends.

There are total of 543 IDPs—who fled from Katawt-Kawng, Yang Wu, Maw Swe, Deinga, and Jamkar villages—living in the Panglong KBC IDP camp. According to Hpan La, they are seeking assistance to facilitate the return of those from Katawt-Kawng and Yang Wu.

“Over 80 families from Yang Wu and Katawt-Kawng village will return home. Deinga village is close to Yang Wu village. Therefore, if Yang Wu villagers are sure they can return home, Deinga villagers will follow their neighbors. This is the plan,” he said.

On December 21 2018, the Burma Army declared a four-month unilateral ceasefire in five military command regions in the country. Representatives of the military have said that they will assist IDPs in going back to their villages. However, IDPs have remained cautious, pointing to the continued concerns of landmines and regional instability.

Bawk Ja, from Katawt-Kawng, said that she is still worried about clashes occurring in her village if she returns.

“We want a guarantee for our safety from both the government and EAOs [ethnic armed organizations], so we will be safe living in our village again,” she told NMG.

According to Kai Luam, who comes from Yang Wu village, her decision to return home was based on a fear of losing her land and having it deemed as vacant under Burma’s controversial Vacant, Fallow and Virgin land law. She said that planned development projects in the area might also threaten her property rights.

“I am so afraid of losing my farmland. Here in the IDP camp, I cannot work on my paddy field, so I have faced difficulties,” Kai Luam told NMG. “I heard that the government will construct a railway and a road in our area. If we are not there, we will lose our farmland. That’s why I want to return home,” she explained.

The IDPs in Panglong KBC camp have lived there for nearly five years, having fled from clashes between the Burma Army and the Kachin Independence Army in April 2014. They say that even though they are provided with assistance by NGOs, the aid is not sufficient.