Tatmadaw offers to help refugees return home
The Tatmadaw has offered to provide assistance to refugees in Shan State who are willing to return to their villages during its four-month truce.
THE Tatmadaw (military) will help refugees who want to return home voluntarily in five military regions where it stopped operations for four months starting January 1, according to the North Eastern Command in Shan State.
“We will not force them to return, but if they want to, we are considering how the Tatmadaw can help arrange their transportation and accommodation. We will not force them to return to their regions,” said Colonel Win Htut Lay of the North Eastern Command.
Some refugees, especially those who have stayed a long time in camps, still feel unsafe about returning to their homes. Others have lost their houses and livelihoods and have no place to return to.
“We have been here for three years. We don’t want to return, as our houses were destroyed and it is not easy to make a living,” said Daw Aye Mi of Mong Yaw village, who lives at Kyusao camp in Namtu township in Shan.
Although the military stopped its operations, fighting between two armed ethnic groups has caused more villagers to seek refuge at camps.
A refugee said it is still not safe to return because of fighting between the Restoration Council of Shan State and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army.
“Despite the military’s pledge, there are still armed groups. They are still fighting. We have lived here for years now. Besides, the ceasefire is only for four months and we don’t know what will happen after those four months, so we won’t go back,” he said.
Some civil society groups said that besides sending the refugees back home, the government must also ensure their long term security and safety.
Nan Sabei, a member of the Northern Shan State Peace Civil Organisations Committee, said, “Much should be done for them to resettle in their villages. I don’t want the Tatmadaw to rush these things during the ceasefire of four months. Trust should be built during these four months, and we should do everything to extend the ceasefire.”
There are around 20 refugee camps and 30,000 refugees in northern Shan.
Refugees at a camp in Namtu township, Shan State.