As fighting continues in Kachin State, refugees fear they are witnessing a last-ditch grab for power, one that will only prolong their displacement.

The Kachin Independence Organisation – whose armed branch is fighting the Tatmadaw – suggested the military was fomenting the fighting to ensure its hold on the area before the next government assumes control.

“They want to show they still have an important role in the security of the country,” Ko Dau Hka, the KIO spokesperson, said.

It’s a fear that’s echoed by locals, who have for decades watched as the natural resources of their state are drained by military-backed conglomerates and foreign companies.

International watchdog group Global Witness released an investigation into Kachin State’s jade mining industry earlier this year that found the military-backed elites reaped a US$31 billion profit in 2014, almost half the country’s GDP. Little of that wealth trickles back to those who live in the state.

But in the face of a landslide win by the National League for Democracy, the military and its political proxy party have been reduced to a parliamentary minority bloc. Yet many in Kachin worry the military is doing what it can – including recent strikes in Mohnyin – to hold on to key areas.

Those who voted for the NLD aren’t certain the party can rein in the fighting.

Stuck in the camps for almost five years, the refugees have little confidence in any government, and don’t believe in the possibility of a real ceasefire anymore.

“Every time, soon after the signing of a ceasefire, the army attacks again,” said Ma Htu Lum, a resident of Jat Mai Kaung camp since June 2011.

The IDPs said their state has become increasingly militarised, and tensions between the ethnic groups are getting worse. Many cited government-controlled militias as running proxy battles for the Tatmadaw. Refugees from Ta Law Gyi village said one such government-controlled militia took control of the area after they fled.

“I won’t go back. I am too scared of the Shan Ni,” said Ma Khaw Nam, who lives in Saint Paul camp. “I visited my relatives in Ta Law Gyi last month and the militia questioned me for two hours,” she added.

Ma Htu Lum said safety in the camps has also been an issue. “Sometimes the military come and they have a list with all our names. They are looking for people with ties with the Kachin Independence Army,” she said.

In Jat Mai Kaung camp, the story of Ko Brang Shawng, a young man arrested in 2012, is well known. Accused of being part of the KIA and involved in a series of bombing in Myitkyina, he was tortured and detained for a year-and-a-half, according to the camp residents.

“Now he is free, but he is still in shock. He is not normal anymore. I had to become the head of the family,” said Ma Jaun Zei Ngoi, Ko Brang Shawng’s wife.

He wasn’t the only one arrested; at least two others from the camp remain in prison for charges of involvement with the KIA.

And while the latest offensives have continued to force families from their homes, the largest camps around Myitkyina cannot accommodate anyone else, as they already providing shelter to thousands of families stuck for the last five years.

“Now the camps are full. We don’t have the budget for new buildings, only for repairs,” said Daw Sang Khan Maran, Kachin Baptist Convention treasurer for the Jat Mai Kaung camp.

Located on the outskirts of Mytikyina, the camp houses over 1000.

According to the UN, in 2014, 119,800 people in Kachin and northern Shan State were “affected by conflict or intercommunal violence … in need of protection and assistance”.

But Reverend Hkalam Samson from the KBC, said that there are around 105,000 IDPs in Kachin alone, 20,000 of whom are in Myitkyina divided into 16 camps.

The number of IDPs appears to remain the same as new registrations are not processed.

“Each week we give a list of new refugees for registration to the authorities, but they don’t accept all of them,” said Father Noel .

Local groups supporting the IDPs fear the New Year will mean a donation drop to the perennially underfunded camps. The 2015 UN Humanitarian Response Plan’s requested US$ 124.8 million was only 47% funded. For 2016, the appeal has increased to US$190 million.

“Now that the state of emergency has passed, [donors] have to redirect the money to more urgent issues,” said Noel Naw Latt from the Karuna Myanmar Social Services.

The World Food Programme has already reduced assistance, and is now providing cash instead of food supplies to IDPs in government-controlled areas of Kachin and northern Shan State where it says there is access to markets.

A source from the Catholic Diocese of Myitkyina said the church is trying to implement a resettlement program, pending negotiations with the government. They are also hoping to enlarge some camps, where sometimes 10 people sleep in one room and the houses are more damaged with each passing rainy season.

For most of the refugees, returning home remains a remote possibility. Many have nowhere to go back to, as many of the villages have been burned down, or have fallen into disrepair.

“I went back to my home last year. Our house is empty. There is nothing left,” Ma Htu Lum.

“Our cattle, even pieces of wood we were saving to enlarge our house … everything is gone.”

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