The first displaced returnees to the Kachin village of Nam San Yang in Waingmaw Township are again preparing to flee after the Burma Army recently attacked and seized a nearby Kachin Independence Army (KIA) camp.
KIA officials in the organization’s Laiza headquarters confirmed to KNG that on November 29, the Tatmadaw’s Infantry Battalion 140 captured a camp under the KIA’s fifth brigade three miles west of Nam San Yang on the Myitkyina-Bhamo road.
Some 500 people from 98 families who had sought refuge from the war in internally displaced people’s (IDP) camps in Waingmaw and Myitkyina are under threat of being displaced once again. Many participated in returns to Nam San Yang facilitated by the Burma Army beginning in January this year.
Kachin singer Hpaula Gam Hpang, who advocated for the IDPs’ return, said that since fighting renewed between the Burma Army and the KIA near Nam San Yang, they are now worried about their security.
“We are worried that these people in Nam San Yang village will flee again,” he explained. “They had fled in the past because they feared the clashes. If they flee again, it will be really difficult for them to return.”
He told KNG that he sent a letter of concern earlier this month to the Burmese government’s Peace Commission, the military’s commander-in-chief, the head of the army’s northern regional command, the Kachin State border affairs minister and the deputy minister of social welfare, relief and resettlement ministry, outlining the situation.
In the letter, he said that he quoted a Burma Army official saying, “we will try not to let this happen again,” referring to the displacement of villagers from Nam San Yang.
The ongoing fighting could impact any agreement between the KIA and government on future IDP return, Hpaula Gam Hpang said.
“Media outlets already reported about the resettlement program in Nam San Yang village. So if villagers flee again because of clashes, it will give the government and army a negative image,” he told KNG.
Chairperson of the Kachin Baptist Convention Rev. Dr. Hkalam Samson, who also works with the Kachin Humanitarian Concern Committee, said that the military and the KIA will need to agree to a ceasefire before more displaced communities could go home and that his focus would continue to be on IDPs’ rights.