EU Ambassador: Kachin IDPs Should Only Return Home With Security Guarantee

Internally displaced people (IDPs) in Kachin State should return to their homes when they receive guarantees that their basic needs will be met, the European Union’s (EU) ambassador to Burma Kristian Schmidt said in Myitkyina on Thursday.

The ambassador was in the state capital speaking about university scholarships but met with reporters afterward to discuss other ongoing issues in the region.

“Regarding IDP return, they must a receive security guarantees and assistance. They must return home with dignity,” Mr Schmidt said. “It’s impossible to go back home to places where conflict is still happening.”

A necessary step for safe return, he explained, was for “all stakeholders to cooperate.” The Tatmadaw and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) must designate safe areas “without any military movement” where IDPs could go back to, the ambassador told media representatives.

Mr. Schmidt expressed concerns regarding IDP return to the village of Nam San Yang, in Waingmaw Township, an initiative that began in March with the Burma Army transporting some 200 people back to the community. The move occurred during a unilateral ceasefire declared by the military in five command regions, including Kachin State.

“The Tatmadaw and KIA camp are still very close [by]. Landmines are still there. The IDPs returned to their village because they may be worried about losing their farmland,” he said of Nam San Yang, adding that it may be better for IDPs to wait until the situation is more stable before going back.

The EU ambassador recommended that armed groups that are both signatory and non-signatory to the country’s Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement participate in peace dialogue with the government and military. Civil society, political parties and women should also be partners in the peace process, he added.

Nearly 1,000 students attended the meeting at Myitkyina University with Kristian Schmidt prior to his exchange with reporters on the IDP situation in Kachin State.

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