By KO HTWE
Kachin refugees sheltering in the Lagat Yang camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) have begun to relocate amid pressure from the Burmese Army, a camp administrator told DVB.
The Lagat Yang camp in Mansi Township, Kachin State, is home to hundreds of families forced to flee their homes because of fighting between the Burmese Army and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).
Camp sources have for weeks been reporting steady pressure from the Burmese military, urging the refugees to return to their villages, which soldiers insist are now safe.
The camp’s coordinator, La Sang, told DVB that after continued pressure, some of the IDPs returned to their homes to examine damages and prepare for a permanent return, but most of them quickly returned to the camp because fighting resumed.
“We have been living in [Lagat Yang] for over a year,” said La Sang, “we’re just beginning to settle in now and it would be difficult to go back to our villages as we have to tidy up and rebuild homes.”
He said that though they tried to convince authorities to let them stay, they are still being instructed to leave. Most of the IDPs do not feel that it is safe to return and are considering other relocation sites. A church in nearby Man Win Gyi has arranged accommodation for some of the displaced. Others are said to be headed towards China.
La Sang said that about 440 Lagat Yang residents — around 92 families — began vacating the camp on 7 May. Twenty of those families were bound for China.
On 3 May, Burmese soldiers detained fourteen new arrivals to the camp on the grounds that they were not registered as residents. They have all since been released and are among those relocating to Man Win Gyi.
Approximately 227 families — about 800 people — had been living in the Lagat Yang IDP camp since fighting broke out between the Burmese Army and the KIA in Mansi Township in November 2013.
Last year’s conflict caused thousands to flee the Nam Lin Pa IDP camp and nearby villages, hundreds settling at Lagat Yang.
In early April of this year, additional installment of Burmese troops in the area — assigned to accompany census enumerators — eventually led to territorial conflicts. Several sources have reported that frontline shellfire landed within the camp’s boundaries, causing many of the refugees to flee again.
Some fled to nearby Man Win Gyi, while many made a run for the Chinese border. Of those, many have since returned to the Lagat Yang camp. Several hundred IDPs remain in Lagat Yang, originating from various villages and other refugee camps in Bhamo District.