The Kachin Humanitarian Concern Committee (KHCC) is preparing to resettle a total of more than 3,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) from 10 villages in Kachin State in the first few months of next year, the group said at a press conference held on December 21.
According to the Kachin Baptist Convention, Japan’s Nippon Foundation will provide US$5 million in funding to support the program, which will see the resettlement of more than 500 families between January and April 2020.
“To improve living standards, we are going to assist these IDPs as much as we can. We are going to help these IDPs start their agricultural farms and other businesses. This is our first step,” Yohei Sasakawa, the chairman of the Nippon Foundation, said at the press conference.
According to the KHCC, 10 villages were selected for the resettlement program based on three criteria. The first is that the villages must be located in areas where no clashes are currently occurring. The second is that they must be in areas where the KHCC can negotiate with both sides in the ongoing conflict between government and ethnic armies. The third is that the villages must still be standing since the conflict began in 2011.
Hka Li, the deputy secretary of the KHCC, said that the resettled IDPs will receive shelter, 1-3 months of food rations, vocational training, and help to restore their farmlands to their former condition.
Rev. Dr. Hkalam Samson, the chairman of the KHCC, said that it has been difficult to manage the situation of IDPs because many have been living in temporary camps for nearly nine years.
“We didn’t support the previous government’s efforts to return IDPs to their homes because they were being forced to return. The IDPs didn’t want to go back. They wanted to wait until after a ceasefire and peace was restored. But they have been living in IDP camps for nearly nine years now, and they are even trying to form their own return committees in some camps,” Rev. Dr. Hkalam Samson told KNG.
He added that he didn’t blame the government for the previous situation, but said that after frequent consultation with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) on the issue, some churches are now ready to begin organizing for the return of the IDP.
“So we are seeing different actions among us. Therefore, we open the road for the return of IDPs,” said the KHCC chairman.
Despite ongoing negotiations between the government and the Northern Alliance, which includes the KIA, clashes between the Burma Army and ethnic armed groups continues in the country’s north, including Kachin State.
With the assistance of the government and army, 98 families have already returned to Nam San Yang, a village in Kachin State’s Waingmaw Township. Burma Army and KIA troops clashed near Nam San Yang in November, raising concerns about the security of the resettled villagers.
Even though many IDPs prefer to wait until they can return to their homes safely, some are worried they will lose their farmland under new land laws if they stay away too long.