Amid Ceasefire Speculation, Kachin IDPs Ask If They Will ‘Need to Run Again’

Kachin people displaced by war have expressed concern about how a potential ceasefire between the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and the Burma Army could affect their security.

The KIO is among the majority of armed groups in Burma not signatory to the country’s controversial Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), but its leadership has been in talks with the government and military regarding a bilateral ceasefire.

In his address on the KIO’s 59th anniversary commemoration on Friday, chairperson Gen N’Ban La said that the organization was “trying to hold face-to-face discussions… regarding IDP (internally displaced people) return after signing a ceasefire agreement.”

“How many years will a ceasefire agreement last? [The KIO] signed a ceasefire with the government in 1994 but [fighting] broke out again,” Mali Yang IDP camp resident Sara Seng Hkawng told KNG, referring to the breakdown of the agreement in 2011. “I want to ask, do we need to run again?”

She added that it was “not acceptable” for a ceasefire to be considered on the grounds that IDPs would then be told they could go home.

Kumhtat Hting Nan, the general secretary of the KIO, said in a public meeting in late April that his organization would only sign a bilateral ceasefire agreement alongside its allies in the Northern Alliance of ethnic armed groups—the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and the Arakan Army.

KNG reached out to the KIO’s information department in Laiza to inquire whether this was still the case, but received no response at the time of reporting.

“For IDPs, what I really want is that military bases and camps must stay away from civilian wards and villages,” Sara Gum Seng, who lives in Maina (Mungna) IDP camp, said.

Members of Kachin civil society groups told KNG that they hoped the KIO would listen to the wishes of the Kachin people in moving forward with any proposed agreements. The KIO opted not to sign the NCA in 2015, particularly after the Kachin Baptist Convention expressed opposition to the terms of the agreement.

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