IDP Returnees in Northern Shan State Still Waiting for Homes

Kachin villagers who have been sheltering at a church in the northern Shan State border town of Muse for the past five years have returned to their home village only to find that they have nowhere to live.

Internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the village of Wing Seng in Muse District’s Mungbaw village tract say that construction of new homes to replace the ones that were damaged or destroyed in their absence hasn’t yet begun, despite promises from relief agencies.

“We were happy to hear that Metta would build new houses for us, but so far there has been no new construction. I hope they will start building in December,” said Ze Hkawng, one of the affected IDPs, referring to the Metta Development Foundation.

He told KNG that until new houses are built after the end of the coming rainy season, many former IDPs will be forced to live with relatives or even under plastic sheets.

“It’s difficult for us to live like that,” he said.

According to Ze Hkawng, the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) in Muse offered the returnees 1.5 million kyat (US$980) to build new homes or 300,000 kyat ($196) to repair old houses, as well as six baskets of rice per person a month.

However, due to the timing of their return, many of the former IDPs feel they’ve been left out in the cold.

“We told the church leaders we would go back next year, but they said there was no space in the church compound for us to stay, so we had no choice but to come back,” said one returnee who spoke to KNG.

According to Rev. Zau Ra of the KBC in Muse, the IDPs had sheltered at the church for five years, but could no longer stay for a variety of reasons.

“We arranged for the return of the IDPs because the government doesn’t recognize the camps in Muse, which means that we can’t get any help from international NGOs,” he said.

“Another problem is that Muse has a trading zone, which exposes [the IDPs] to the risk of becoming drug addicts or alcoholics. Our church simply cannot provide enough assistance. That’s why we arranged for them to return home,” said Rev. Zau Ra.

Local sources say there were 40 IDP families staying at the IDP camp in Muse, of whom only 10 have returned to their former homes. The others have reportedly left to find shelter elsewhere.

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