400 Returned IDPs Facing Food Shortages in Kachin State

By Lawi Weng 9 July 2018

Two local Kachin aid groups have appealed to other aid organizations to help provide food for almost 400 ethnic Kachin IDPs who returned to their three villages in Injangyang Township, northern Kachin State, last month.

The 397 IDPs went back to the villages of Njang Yang, Nlawt Yang and Ngyeng Kawng on June 18 and 19 after the Kachin State government told some religious leaders to send the IDPs home as there had been no fighting in Injangyang Township recently.

“We can say it was okay for them for to return to their villages. Their houses were not destroyed by fighting, so they could go straight back to stay in their homes,” said Seng Nu, program coordinator with the Myitkyina-based Karuna Mission Social Solidarity (KMSS), which is one of two groups providing assistance to the IDPs.

“For food, we only have enough for one month, and we do not have any agreement with other aid groups to provide food for them for other months,” she said. “Therefore, we are still appealing for food from other organizations.”

The IDPs initially stayed at Tanghpre IDP camp in Injangyang Township, where KMSS and the Diocese of Myitkyina-Myanmar provided food for them. They fled from their homes when the Myanmar Army launched a major military offensive against the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in April.

The resettlement plan was set in motion after the Myanmar Army, Kachin State Government, and lawmakers told some senior Kachin Catholic leaders to send the IDPs back to their villages. The authorities firstly told the bishop in Myitkyina, who then passed the order on to the parish priest. But the two religious leaders did not discuss what help the IDPs would need with local aid groups.

“It was a personal decision to send the IDPs back, not an organizational one,” said a statement issued on June 26 from the Diocese of Myitkyina-Myanmar, the second aid group helping the IDPs.

Seng Nu said those who work with the IDPs did not know anything about the resettlement plan. “For the KMSS, as soon as we heard they had gone back to their villages, we went to find them to see what condition they were in.”

The Myanmar Army and KIA have not recently engaged in hostilities in Injangyang Township. But the IDPs will not be safe if they try to find food in the jungle. Therefore, the two local aid groups said that they would need supplies until October.

Groups that work with IDPs normally send them back home when they feel it is safe for them to return. The aid groups provide sufficient food to help the IDPs stay at their village based on the resettlement plan.

“Based on our timeframe, and their demands, they will need food until on October,” Seng Nu said.

There are more than 10,000 IDPs in Kachin State. Some IDP camps are in government-controlled areas, but there are also some in KIA-held areas near the Chinese border.

The government wants to shut down some IDP camps in Kachin, northern Shan, and Karen State, as well as in Rakhine, but it has not revealed details of its plan yet.