KNCA Wants Armed Groups To Withdraw To Allow IDPs To Return Home

By Network Media Group
Thursday, June 11, 2020

On the ninth anniversary of the war in northeastern Burma, a Kachin group called on armed groups to withdraw their troops and eliminate landmines around villages, so that internally displaced persons (IDPs) could return to their places of origin.

Rev Dr Hkalam Samson, adviser to Kachin National Consultative Assembly (KNCA), says both the Burma Army and Kachin Independence Army (KIA) have encampments near villages and need to pull back their armies to ensure the safety and security of civilians.

“If there are military camps that continue to be stationed there many feel that clashes will occur near their villages sooner or later. Frankly, these people (IDPs) just want to live peacefully,” Hkalam Samson told NMG.

Until armed groups leave and landmines are removed, it is not safe for IDPs to return home, he says. Nor will they have security when they are in their fields, foraging for wild vegetables in the jungle, fishing and hunting.

Bawk Mai, who lives in KBC IDP camp, located in Namti town, told NMG last month a man who returned to Kasung village was injured after stepping on a landmine. She says the man is still recovering from the accident. “There are still mines in our village. Many buffaloes and cattle were killed by landmines. And, I’m afraid to go back to my village.”

Gar Hkawn Ra says: “I want to go back to my village. There is no freedom in the IDP camp and I am not happy living here.” She says she wants stakeholders to make a ceasefire, so there will be “lasting peace.” The woman moved from Tarlawgyi village to Jam Mai Kawng Saint Paul RC IDP camp.

Roi Ja, head of the IDP camp, explained there are still many mines left along the highway between Myitkyina and Bhamo. And with some armed groups staying in IDPs’ former villages, it’s dangerous for them to go home.

Hkalam Samson says some IDPs that came from Namjan village in Hpakant Township don’t want to return because the Burma Army is now permanently based there. KNCA requested that the government to provide them with alternative land in Sengra village, located in the same township.

In addition, KNCA wants to ensure IDPs receive land deeds under the Vacant, Fellow and Virgin (VFV) Land Management Act.

Hkalam Samson says KHCC and Karuna Mission Social Solidarity are discussing arrangements for returning some IDPs to villages that have people already living there.

“We have to negotiate with Zetan village in Puta-O. We have to provide a village fund. Even though we talk about virgin and vacant lands, these lands have owners. Therefore, we can try to get plots for internally displaced persons there but still need to get official land ownership documents,” he says.

In a statement released on June 9th, the ninth anniversary of the conflict, KHCC requested that the Burma Army and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the political arm of the KIA, sign a bilateral ceasefire agreement and immediately begin political dialogue.

More than 120,000 people have sought refuge in more than 170 IDP camps since the 17-year ceasefire between the Tatmadaw and KIO ended in 2011. After fleeing the fighting, villagers lost their homes, farms and the right to a education.