For Many Shan State IDPs, There Are No Homes To Go Back To
In looking to return to their communities, many families are finding that their homes have been damaged, destroyed, or looted.
By NETWORK MEDIA GROUP (NMG)
Friday, April 5, 2019
Internally displaced people (IDPs) in northern Shan State say that their homes have been destroyed or damaged in ongoing fighting in the region, making it difficult or impossible for them to return to their communities.
Residents of the Kachin Baptist Convention-run Panglong IDP camp had aimed to go back to their villages during the third week of April, but many are now rethinking that plan. Hpan Lar, deputy camp leader in Panglong, told NMG that dozens of homes belonging to people in the camp had been damaged in clashes between government armed forces and ethnic armed groups.
There are a total of 543 IDPs in Panglong camp from Katawt Kawng, Yang Wu, Maw Swe, Deinga and Kyankar villages.
“There are many people who don’t have a house in village, because those houses were damaged in the clashes. IDPs who still have their old homes will return home as the first batch on April 22,” Hpan Lar said. “There are over 40 families who don’t have their old houses. They are from Yang Wu and Katawt Kawng village. There was a plan that over 100 families would return home but more than 40 houses have been completely damaged. There are no homes remaining in Kyankar and Maw Swe village,” he explained.
Some 40 displaced families whose homes are still intact will go back on April 22, out of 114 families who originally expressed interest to the government authorities in returning.
“We want to go back home. I already reported that I would return home. I am also worried about clashes resuming in our area. I found that soldiers were deployed in our village when I went to see my house a few months ago,” Panglong camp resident Kai Lum told NMG. “There were no utilities left in my house, including knives or bamboo baskets. They took them away. My house is also damaged,” she said.
Some IDPs told NMG that their motivation for returning home was the worry that they could otherwise lose their farmland under the government’s Vacant, Fallow and Virgin Land Management Law.
However, fears of landmines, which have been discovered around communities in conflict areas, have deterred many of from going back.
Returnees are asking the government and civil society organizations for resettlement assistance and the facilitation of safe transportation back to their communities.
IDPs have timed their return to happen within the Burma Army’s four-month unilateral ceasefire period, which ends at the end of April. The military declared the ceasefire in five command regions in December of last year.
The IDPs in Panglong camp have been there since April 2014, when they fled fighting between the Burma Army and the Kachin Independence Army.