A resettlement program for Kachin internally displaced persons (IDPs) is likely to start in September, according to representatives of the Kachin State government.
The Chinese government gave the program 4 million yuan (more than US$577,000) in assistance to kickstart resettlement efforts.
Director of Kachin State’s government office Zaw Zaw said that they are currently constructing houses wired for electricity for a total of 191 families in three villages. Fifty-nine of the families will be sent to Tar Lawgyi, 34 to Da Bart, and 98 to Nam San Yang.
“This is a part of the overall project, which is expected to cost 200 million yuan (nearly $29 million),” Zaw Zaw told KNG.
Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to provide this amount for the Kachin IDPs’ resettlement during a visit to Burma, he said.
“We requested 2-3 million yuan to start the project. That’s why we started with these three villages,” Zaw Zaw said, referring to the 4 million yuan allocated by the Chinese ambassador on August 5 to the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement in Naypyidaw.
The state government will reportedly provide 3.5 million kyat (more than $2,500) to families who need to repair existing homes, and 7.5 million kyat ($5,500) to families that need to rebuild their houses.
The Kachin Humanitarian Concern Committee (KHCC) is also preparing for its own Kachin IDP return program with financial assistance from Japan’s Nippon Foundation. IDPs in this program will return to different villages than those in the government’s plan.
“I think the Kachin state government will implement this program with financial assistance from China,” Rev. Dr. Hkalam Samson, chair of the KHCC, told KNG, adding that for the KHCC’s initiative, they would be working with the Kachin Baptist Convention, the Roman Catholic church, and civil society organizations.
The Burma Army facilitated the return of IDP families to Nam San Yang village in early 2019, in a move that was criticized by some as premature, given the prevalence of landmines in the area. Some IDPs have requested that the government manage their return to Dabak and Tarlawgyi villages.
There are more than 100,000 IDPs in more than 80 camps Kachin State and northern Shan State due to armed conflict between the Burma Army and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). The current government is currently in talks about how the camps could be closed.
The government forces and the KIA have not signed a new ceasefire after the previous agreement broke down in 2011, leading to fears among IDPs that if they return to their villages, they might be forced to flee again.