Military officials met with Kachin religious leaders in Naypyitaw and resumed long-delayed talks on the return of internally displaced persons (IDPs), although thousands of villagers continue to be forced from their homes by post-coup attacks.
Gen Yar Pyae received 10 Kachin religious leaders, including two representatives of the Kachin Peace-creation Group (PCG), for a three-hour meeting in Burma’s capital on 1 November.
Rev Lagan Ze Hkawng, vice secretary of the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC), said: ”They told us that they want to continue the return of the IDPs and also discussed their safety when they return home and the implementation of the peace process.”
Details on how and when these things will happen weren’t given in the conversation, he explained. However, Gen Yar Pyae said it was important to talk to the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) about the return of the IDPs and pressed for the Kachin PCG to make this happen.
A Kachin participant, who requested anonymity, said that political instability and the pandemic had greatly affected the IDPs’ survival and that they’d little to eat in the camps due to inadequate support and obstacles to accessing available relief.
We didn’t make many demands at the meeting, the source explained, but said that when the IDPs return home, they need financial assistance. At this time they cannot even withdraw their allocated funds from the bank. ”Kachin religious leaders urged the junta to solve this problem before resuming the return of the IDPs,” the source said.
After the coup, access to bank funds has been severely restricted across the country.
Before the military overthrew the National League for Democracy, the government had begun resettling and repatriating some of the tens of thousands of IDPs in Kachin State.
The recent meeting was the first time the junta’s council met with religious leaders in Naypyitaw.
Two representatives each from KBC, Catholic Church, AG, Christ Church, Kachin PCG and one person from the Anglican Church attended the talks on Monday.
The Kachin community are divided about the role of Kachin religious leaders should assume with the junta in the face of political instability and conflict between the KIO’s military arm, the Kachin Independence Army, and the Burma Army.
The day after the regime’s coup on 1 February, army leaders met with Kachin religious leaders in Myitkyina to justify why they overthrew the democratic government.