Kachin IDPs Face Difficulties Deciding Whether to Return Home

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Kachin internally displaced persons (IDPs) have said that they are finding it difficult to decide whether to return to their home villages because they have not been provided enough information about their resettlement sites, their security, or their futures in the camps.

Officials from the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement called up the individuals in charge of the Kachin IDP camps last year and explained the government’s intentions of closing the camps. However, camp residents say they are still awaiting an update on this plan.

“We want government officials to visit the IDP camps. They can hold direct discussions with IDPs. They can visit the camps any time,” Htu Sam, who is the deputy in-charge of the Zelum IDP camp, said. “Regarding the issue of IDP resettlement, they have never discussed it with us. They inquired about it by phone, [asking questions] such as how many families want to resettle and how many people want to return home. We feel that we are helpless people. We feel like we don’t have a father or mother.”

Roi Ja, who lives in Ja Mai Kawng Roman Catholic IDP camp in the Kachin State capital of Myitkyina, told NMG that the respective authorities need to speak directly to the IDPs about their options.

“Even though the government has not explained whether they have an agreement or how much they have negotiated, the Kachin Humanitarian Concern Committee should explain it to us. Then IDPs can make a decision about their resettlement,” Roi Ja explained.

Like Htu Sam, Roi Ja said government officials should observe the situation on the ground in the camps.

“They said that they would take responsibility for IDPs returning home with dignity. Who is going to take responsibility? Who is going to stand with IDPs? Nobody,” Roi Ja said. “This is why it is difficult for IDPs to make a decision whether to resettle or continue staying in the IDP camp.”

The Kachin State government has said that they would implement an IDP resettlement project in September. The initiative involves building more than 190 houses for returning IDPs in the villages of Tarlawgyi, Dabert Yang, and Nam San Yang, with 4 million yuan (US$585,800) in financial assistance from China.

IDPs say that they are considering returning home since donors have reduced assistance for them in the camps, and because their shelters are deteriorating, and they lack job opportunities. They have also voiced concern about losing their farmland to mining initiatives and tissue-culture banana plantations while they stay in the displaced persons’ camps, where many have lived since armed conflict resumed in 2011.

A major challenge surrounding IDPs’ return to their communities is the prevalence of landmines on their land and around their homes. They also say that they fear further outbreaks of clashes between the Kachin Independence Army and the Burma Army.

IDPs have demanded that the respective officials remove all landmines from their villages before they return and to sign a ceasefire in an effort to restore peace in the region.