Leaders from the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) and representatives from internally displaced people’s (IDP) camps met this week to discuss the issue of return for IDPs who have spent eight years in camps.
The two-day meeting was held from August 19-20 at the KBC headquarters in the Kachin State capital of Myitkyina. The primary topic of discussion was whether it is safe for the IDPs to return to their home communities.
“There are many different opinions. Some IDPs already returned home. Some IDPs are waiting to return home, but they believe that an organization will manage their return, [so that it can be carried out] with dignity. Some IDPs prefer to continue living in IDP camps,” Hka Li, who is in charge of KBC’s development department, told KNG.
With fighting between the Burma Army and members of the Northern Alliance of ethnic armed groups ongoing in northern Shan State, the participants in the meeting also discussed the possibility of clashes occurring in Kachin State.
Representatives of the Kachin Humanitarian Concern Committee—formed of various Kachin churches—met with officials from the Union Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement in Naypyidaw in July.
Neither side has acted on the agreement to visit and discuss options with IDPs for whom it might be possible to return to their villages.
Government- and military-sponsored pilot return projects have been met with concern by the KBC, which has warned that such moves are premature and that the IDPs’ security can not yet be guaranteed.
Eight years after a 17-year ceasefire between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Burma Army broke down, some locals displaced by the fighting have tentatively returned to their homes to tend to their farmland. Many have cited food insecurity and fears of land grabs in motivating their decision to go back home.
Throughout the period of displacement, the estimated 100,000 IDPs have not received sufficient aid, largely due to government and military blocks on the delivery of assistance to displaced people who sought refuge in areas controlled by the KIA.