KNG spoke with Pastor Hpauyam Hka Li, the head of Kachin Baptist Convention’s (KBC) development department, about the obstacles his organisation faces returning the internally displaced persons (IDPs) to their villages. KBC said it would send 500 IDPs home this Summer but plans have been delayed while the rainy season is fast approaching.
Can you talk about the Kachin Humanitarian Concerned Committee’s (KHCC) activities during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The KHCC’s main objective is to negotiate between the government and EAOs (ethnic armed organisations) to return the IDPs but because of the pandemic we don’t have a lot of activities going on right now.
If fighting starts again between the Burma Army and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) because of the Arakan Army (AA) troops in Kachin State how will the KHCC help the IDPs return home?
Until a ceasefire is signed, fighting can start again. Although there’s no clashes happening right now it can flare up at any time. Nothing is certain until both sides agree to a ceasefire.
With peace talks in a deadlock what is the plan to return the IDPs to their villages?
We are discussing this with the state government. The KHCC and our members are making preparations, and why we are maintaining strong dialogue with the government to try to get its support. Although we don’t always meet with high ranking officials in person, we frequently talk with responsible government officials by phone.
Have homes been built for the IDPs in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic?
Homes have already been built for ten families in Shwe Nyaung Pin and they are ready to be moved into.
At this point, what percent of the IDP population can be returned to their home villages?
It’s difficult to calculate it by percentage. There are 5,000 families that will return to their villages. Among these, 500 families will return this year, and 174 families told us they want to go back on their own accord. We need ways to help them return home, and it’s also what we’re discussing with the government.
What are you doing to help the IDPs who are unable to return to their villages?
We have created lists based on priorities. Some fled their village even though there weren’t any clashes in their areas. Other villages haven’t sustained any damages. Our first priority for returning the IDPs is to negotiate with the KIO or the government.
Is there anything else you would like to say?
During this time, we’re all facing difficulties. It’s not only the IDPs but we are also experiencing challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. Presently, we’re seeking funding for the IDPs. We have some funding but at this point it’s difficult to withdraw money from the bank. If the IDPs receive less assistance than they did before they shouldn’t be disappointed. We want them to know we are trying our best to help them and trying to find a solution to the problems we are facing.