Unable to Return Home, Putao IDPs Demand Safe Place to Stay
By NETWORK MEDIA GROUP (NMG)
Wednesday, February 19, 2020
Hundreds of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Kachin State’s Putao Township have said they need a secure place to live as long as they remain unable to return home due to increasing militarization near their homes.
The 280 IDPs in Lon Sut camp in Putao town say that they need a plot of land to set up homes until they can go back to their places of origin. The IDPs come from the communities of Mapyone, N’kha Ga, N’phe Ga, Phakang Yang (Ganai Yang) and Hnin Tan Gawng in Machanbaw, Putao and Hkawng Lanphu Townships in Putao District.
“It is still difficult to return to our villages at the moment—there is only a waterway [through which we can get there],” Hpong Htein, who is in charge of the Lon Sut camp, told NMG. “The Burma Army built a military camp at the port [on the river]. I don’t think they will remove the military camp in the near future. That’s why it is difficult for these IDPs to return home.”
He added that the IDPs sent a letter to the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) on February 6 requesting that they facilitate their move to a new land plot in the meantime. The letter reportedly asked KBC officials to report the need for the move to the Kachin State chief minister and government.
“This is the desire of the IDPs. These IDPs are still afraid to return their native village. We want a safe place. We are all agreed to send this letter to the KBC,” Hpong Htein told NMG.
IDPs are also afraid of renewed fighting between the Burma Army and Kachin Independence Army near their homes.
“We are thinking there will be another wave of war waged in the future. That’s why we are hesitant to return to our village. If they give us a land plot here, it will be much better for us,” Htu Mai, an IDP originally from N’phe Ga village in Machanbaw township, told NMG.
She said that IDPs need to be able to cultivate land and grow their own food to survive.
“We need a garden and house and especially a paddy farm. We also need cattle [to help with] cultivation. If they cannot provide cattle, they can give us a tractor. If they cannot provide cattle or a tractor, we will still have difficulties. Now we have nothing in our hands. We depend on food from other people,” Htu Mai explained.
Some of the IDPs in Lon Sut camp have been displaced since 2013, due to fighting between the Burma Army and Kachin forces. Others have taken refuge in the camp since 2015.
There are a total of 61 families in the community. Nearly half of the residents are elderly or children.
There are more than 100,000 IDPs in Kachin State and northern Shan State as of today.