“Staying in a camp is not like being at home. We are not alright here,” said 43-year old Daw Khun Kow, clad in worn-out clothes and standing beside two of her children in Woi Chyai camp in Laiza, Kachin State, last month.
A widow and mother of five children, she is originally from Namsan village in the state’s Waingmaw township. She is one of more than 3000 people who now call Woi Chyai camp – an area barely half the size of a football field – their home after being forced to leave their villages when fighting broke out between Tatmadaw and Kachin Independence Army soldiers last June.
The resumption of hostilities on June 9, 2011, ended a 17-year ceasefire and has led to the displacement of more than 50,000 people in areas controlled bythe Kachin Independence Organisation.
The KIO-supported IDPs and Refugees Relief Committee (IRRC) began assisting the displaced almost immediately after fighting resumed.
As of June, the committee said there were still more than 53,000 people in 53 relief camps in the Sadung, Laiza, Maijayang, Manmaw, N Mawk, Shwegu and Manje areas.
Another 17,000 have sought refuge over the border in China, in areas virtually inaccessible to humanitarian groups and United Nations agencies.
When The Myanmar Times visited five camps in Laiza – the KIO headquarters – Maijayang and in China from July 6 to 11, all refugees gave the same message: “We are tired of staying in camps and want to return home.”