Kachin Aid Group, Rebels to Discuss Plan to Bring Displaced Families Home

By Lawi Weng 5 March 2019

Mon State — The Kachin Humanitarian Concern Committee (KHCC) says it will meet with rebel leaders for a second time on Thursday to discuss prospects for some of the thousands of families displaced by fighting in Kachin State to return home.

The head of the KHCC, Rev. Samson, told The Irrawaddy that the Christian aid group will meet with the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) at its headquarters in Laiza.

More than 100,000 people have taken shelter at over 100 camps across the state since fighting between the KIO and Myanmar military broke out in 2011.

Rev. Samson said the KHCC would present a list of villages it would like families to start returning to — from the approximately 200 they have fled — and ask the KIO to identify the ones that are safe. He said the KHCC would then propose those villages to the government’s National Reconciliation and Peace Center and ask the U.N. for help bringing families back.

“We want them to return with dignity,” Rev. Samson said.

The KHCC held its first meeting with the rebel group to discuss the issue on Feb. 20, but did not have a complete list of villages it wanted families to start returning to at the time. The reverend said it was ready with the list this time around.

At a meeting with the Kachin Baptist Convention last month, 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.

The military helped return an initial group of 17 families to a village last month. One of the returnees was subsequently injured after stepping on a landmine in the area.

The KHCC says it is critical that the military and KIO both agree on which villages families can return to so that they stay safe.

The military and KIO have held several meetings in China in recent years but are yet to agree a ceasefire to replace the one that broke down in 2011, hampering efforts to return displaced families.

Rev. Samson said the KHCC has divided the villages the families fled into three categories based on how safe or dangerous they are in order to help it decide which ones to focus on first.

“We do not think we can send all the [families] back at once. We need to wait and see the situation first. When we think it is safe for them to return, we will return them,” he said.

Col. Naw Bu, a spokesperson for the KIO, declined to comment.