Kachin Conflict: Thousands Remain Displaced

As talks between the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and Burma’s military continue, displaced Kachin say that it is not yet safe to return home.

Thousands of villagers in Kachin State and northern Shan State have been displaced from their homes for nearly two years due to the conflict.

This is in spite of ongoing talks between the Burma Army and Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) to cease hostilities.

As many as 100,000 Kachin have become internally displaced since the conflict began on 9 June 2011.

The Government of Burma and the KIO held talks and released a statement on 30 May 2013, in which they “agree to undertake efforts to achieve de-escalation and cessation of hostilities” but did not agree to a formal ceasefire.

We fear for our lives…

Displaced Kachin people interviewed by the humanitarian organization, Free Burma Rangers, said that they wanted to return to their homes, but could not do so while Burma Army units were still deployed in their villages.

A leader at one displaced people’s camp said.

“If we have safety and freedom in our land we can go back, but now we are not free or safe.”

The Government and the KIO mentioned an agreement “to continue discussions” on repositioning troops but made no concrete plan.

Although talks between the government and the KIO are aimed at dampening the conflict, reports of fighting in Kachin State continue to come through. On the 10th of June a Burma Army unit fought KIA militia, two government soldiers were killed in the gun battle. The Burma Army used large 60mm mortars to fire on KIA positions.

All that remain are ghost towns

FBR sent teams to investigate villages inside Kachin State and found many of them to be completely deserted, full of dilapidated buildings after two years of abandonment.

Some villagers have chosen to return home despite the risks. In Ma Gi Gun Village, eight of 48 families had returned after initially fleeing in December 2011 when the village was attacked by Burma Army Light Infantry Division (LID) 99. Ji Tawng, 33, returned in May 2012 and since then has had to run from the village four or five times whenever Burma Army patrols came close. She said that living in the abandoned village is difficult and she does not feel safe, but prefers living in her home to living in the IDP camp.

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