Gov’t, Kachin Humanitarian Group Vow to Work Together on IDPs’ Return

By Nyein Nyein 26 April 2019

YANGON—The Kachin Humanitarian Concern Committee said it hopes peace talks between the government and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) next week will further the process of returning internally displaced people (IDPs) to their homes.

On Friday, the government’s National Reconciliation and Peace Center (NRPC) and the KHCC discussed the matter and ways of cooperating further. Both sides agreed to facilitate coordination among the stakeholders on this matter, while the KHCC will coordinate with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), which gives the group its mandate, on the IDPs’ return.

The KHCC and the government have agreed to work together to ensure the IDPs’ safe and dignified return, and to follow international humanitarian standards as well as the NRPC’s policies, they said in a joint statement released after Friday’s meeting.

The government and the KHCC will meet again in early May to discuss a pilot program to resettle displaced villagers from selected IDP camps in Kachin and northern Shan states, according to Rev. Samson, the head of the KHCC, who met with the NRPC and Kachin State ministers.

“How fast or slow the IDPs return depends on the peace talks between the KIO/KIA and the NRPC. If the KIA signed a bilateral ceasefire agreement, it would smooth the process of returning the IDPs,” Rev. Samson said.

More than 100,000 people from 171 villages in Kachin and northern Shan states are on the list for repatriation, after being displaced nearly eight years ago by renewed fighting between government forces and the KIA in June 2011. The efforts to facilitate the IDPs’ returns started in mid-2017, when Kachin Baptist Convention leaders met with the State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.  At a meeting with the Kachin Baptist Convention in February, Myanmar military chief Snr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing said the military would help returning the families and will cooperate with the KIO to clear landmines.

Rev. Samson told The Irrawaddy on Friday that the absence of a ceasefire agreement in the region, and the presence of military camps in some of the areas, hampered the return process.

He added that signing a bilateral agreement should come without conditions, which “would help the KIA to consider signing it” and help to “build trust” between the government and the KIO.

U Zaw Htay, the spokesman of the Myanmar State Counselor’s Office, told reporters in Naypyitaw that avoiding clashes is the most important thing for securing the IDPs’ return and closing the IDP camps, adding that this would be focus during the talks with the KIA and its allies on April 30. He said, “We have to try to negotiate with the military [or Tatmadaw] to stop the fighting, to build mutual trust and to help with the return of the displaced.”

After camps are identified to take part in the returns, implementation, including providing vocational support to the returnees, will be done by the Joint Strategy Team (JST), which is comprised of Kachin civil society groups, relief workers and religious organizations, said Rev. Samson.