Over 1,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in Tanai, Kachin State since June say they are too afraid of soldiers to return home. The Tatmadaw maintains an outpost near the IDPs' villages and has refused requests to withdraw troops, according to religious leaders and activists assisting the displaced families.
Religious organizations and officials from the Kachin Peace Network met with Tatmadaw officials on September 8 to discuss the IDPs’ concerns, but they were unable to reach an agreement, according to officials present at the meeting.
“In the end, we went [above them] to meet with the regional commander," said Hkalam Samson, secretary of the Kachin Baptist Convention. "The IDPs said they are afraid to return home due to the military outposts. The Tatmadaw said they have no reason to withdraw the military outposts. So we are going to write a letter to the state government to inform them. We are still at this stage. We can’t do anything at the moment. The military knows the answer but they don't accept it."
A volunteer providing assistance to the IDPs said the Tatmadaw has fortified outposts in locations near In Ga Ga Village, the Nambyu stream and along the Nam Phyat stream.
“They are under the Tanai ROC [Regional Operations Command]. We also heard that they have established a stronghold in three areas near Nam Phyat Stream," he said.
Around 1,000 residents from In Ga Ga and Nambyu villages and the surrounding area fled to Tanai after fighting broke out between the Tatmadaw and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) during the first week of June.
“I want to return home. It’s been around three months so there probably won’t be a lot of damage if our cattle are still there and our houses are still in good condition," said an IDP speaking on condition of anonymity. "I’m not happy living here."
The IDPs are living in buildings, community halls and tents supplied by religious organizations.
“The KBC is trying its best to assist us but there is no warmth because it’s not our home and not our bed,” the IDP added.
Another volunteer said the IDPs are facing difficulties in accommodation and food.
“Accommodation is the most difficult issue. The government hasn't officially recognized them as IDPs so we can't build better buildings for the families to live in. The government doesn’t recognize the IDP camp. The second issue is food. They are currently eating food provided by donors and political parties. There isn’t a lot [of donated food],” he said.
Kachin religious leaders, member of the Kachin Peace Network, and volunteers said hey will petition the state government to intervene on behalf of the IDPs soon hey can either return home soon, or have better accommodation in the interim.