Chin IDPs prepare to make a fresh start far from their conflict-hit homeland

Ethnic Chin civilians forced to flee from conflict in Chin and Rakhine states nearly a year ago are preparing to take up permanent residence in Yangon region’s Hmawbi township.

Around 90 people who had been living as internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Sar Phyu Su, a village in Hmawbi, for more than 10 months were instructed by township administrators to leave before the end of the rainy season.

This led to an effort to find a new home for them in the area, according to villagers who spoke to Myanmar Now when it visited Sar Phyu Su last week.

That effort has resulted in plans to build a new village on a two-acre plot of land near the village of Myaung Tagar in Hmawbi, purchased by the Affection Social Development Organization for 25m kyat ($18,800).

“We gave it this name so that God would bless us and we would be free from danger, and so this place will bring us joy,” said Kan Lut, an inhabitant of the new village of Bay Ta La 

The new village, named Bay Ta La, will be home to IDPs from the villages of Mee Lat Wa, Seint Sin, Kyi Lay, Twin Si Wa, Ku Tan Wa and Wai La in Chin state’s Paletwa township and Ye Aung village, a village in Kyauktaw township in Rakhine state.

To settle on the land, the IDPs have to agree to pay 1mn kyat ($750) for a 40x60ft plot of land. However, they won’t be required to pay the money right away, said J. P. Biek Tin Sang, the chair of the Affection Social Development Organization.

In the meantime, he added, the IDPs will require further financial assistance, because they only have enough rice to last a month. Also, since the land has only two 16-square-foot houses and a well on it, they will also need money for building supplies.

The name of the new settlement, Bay Ta La, is a biblical reference, said Kan Lut, who is leading the effort to turn the land into a livable community.

“We gave it this name so that God would bless us and we would be free from danger, and so this place will bring us joy,” he explained, adding that he plans to settle in the village with his wife and three children.

Chin children in the new village of Bay Ta La in Hmawbi (Phyo Htet Aung/Myanmar Now)

Nan Yaik, a 30-year-old mother of one who fled from her home village of Kyi Lay in Paletwa due to clashes between the military and the Arakan Army (AA), said she planned to stay in the new village for the sake of her infant son’s future education.

“I would like to stay here if I can. We could return to Kyi Lay, but we don’t know for sure that it’s stable. It’s fine for now but what if it’s not when we go back,” she said.

Like Nan Yaik, 28-year-old Hwei Win from Ye Aung in Kyauktaw township has decided to settle down in Bay Ta La for good. Now pregnant with her second child, she said the inhabitants of her home village were ordered by the military to leave.

“We really believe God will bless us here,” said Kan Lut.

“Yangon is better than Rakhine. It’s better for me. It’s better for my family and my children, for their education and everything,” she said.

Clashes between the military and the AA had been intense in northern Rakhine and southern Chin states until about a month ago. The conflict had steadily escalated since early 2018, to the point that the military started using jets, attack aircraft and autonomous fighter jets against suspected AA positions.

More than a thousand IDPs from the region took shelter in Hmawbi and Hlegu townships in Yangon and Inn Ta Kaw township in Bago after fleeing the fighting.

Chin IDPs in Yangon plan to settle down after building a new village in Hmawbi township.(Phyo Htet Aung/Myanmar Now)

Kan Lut said that his home village of Mee Let Wa, opposite the town of Paletwa on the Kaladan river, was hit by heavy artillery in February.

“We were really scared. We couldn’t even stay home and sleep. Even if we moved to Paletwa, we would have to stay in an IDP camp. That’s why we ran away to Yangon on our own,” he said.

While the villagers are eager to begin a new life in Bay Ta La, they are still unable to make progress on their own due to the Covid-19 pandemic, he added.

The Chin IDPs are hopeful that they will be able to maintain a sense of peace after going through all sorts of danger and seeing the negative impact of the war firsthand.

“We really believe God will bless us here,” said Kan Lut.

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