Meet Daw Kaw: Internally Displaced Person (IDP) in northern Kachin State, Burma

In March 2015, Executive Director Simon Billenness and Policy Advisor Myra Dahgaypaw traveled to Burma on a fact-finding trip. While in northern Kachin State, they visited IDP camps and met many victims of the Burmese Army’s heinous human rights abuses and attacks on their villages. Myra Dahgaypaw sat down with Daw Kaw in the Shin Chyai IDP camp. In honor of today, June 9, 2015 being the 4th anniversary of the Burmese Army breaking the 17-yearlong ceasefire agreement, we share Daw Kaw’s testimony –

My name is Daw Kaw from Laphai village, Kachin State. I’ve been in living at the Shin Chyai IDP camp for over three years. Due to the fighting between the armies in my village, I feared for the life I love, therefore I was forced to flee. While the condition of the camp is not too bad, it is always over-crowded. Because there is not enough wood near the camp for everyone, most of us travel to Doog Bai village to get firewood. It is very hard for those who don’t have transportation as it is very far to walk. If we can’t get firewood, we can’t cook our food.

KachinIDPCamp
IDP Camp in Kachin State, Burma

There is also concern for the children walking to the school in Baw Quew village. This camp is located by the highway where there is heavy traffic everyday. During their commute to and from school, the children could be involved in an accident or abducted by the Burmese army, the Border Guard Force or others at any time.

As of right now, the Burmese troops and Border Guard Force do not disturb us. However, their camps are located at a nearby mountain. The Kachin Independence Army fighters are on the other side of us; we are between the three camps. The IDP camp is only a half-hour walk from the Burmese Army camp and the Border Guard Force.  If fighting erupts, we have nowhere to flee. The likelihood of motarbombs and bullets passing through our camp during a firefight is high. This is our biggest fear all the time.

BombShelterIDPCamp
Kachin IDPs build underground bomb shelters as offenses near camps by the Burmese Army, including airstrikes, are ongoing.

As a woman, it is scary to live in the IDP camp. When we go out to look for the firewood or retrieve firewood from Doog Bai village, we have to go through the Burmese army camp. Even if we travel in groups of three or four women, we are still very scared of being raped. For some it has happened before and can happen again. The threat of rape never ceases.

The ongoing ceasefire talks are not yet trustworthy because Burmese troops live in our village. As long as they live in our village, we dare not go back. Even if some return home, it is not safe for us—especially women. Security is the most important thing in our lives. If we can live and farm our lands in peace, we would be able to care for our children and community. As long as the Burmese troops are in my village and there is no chance of security for us, the ceasefire talks do not mean anything to me.

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