The Karen People’s Forum has demanded the Burma government and the Karen National Union suspend all mega development projects in Karen State during the current peace negotiation process.
The Karen People’s Forum and villagers representating 23 villages based on the Salween River met in Papun Township on June 5 for two days to discuss how they could be involved in the peace negotiation process – following the meeting a statement was released with their recommendations.
Naw Mu Say Wah, a Karen People’s Forum spoke person told Karen News.
“We want to flag our concerns with both the KNU and the government that they should not start mega development projects, such as building dams, oil drilling, and gold mining during the peace talks.”
In their released statement the Karen People’s Forum demand that “political negotiations between the Karen National Union and the government must address the issue of local ownership of resources.”
According to the Karen People’s Forum, companies from China and Thailand have already signed business contracts with government authorities to mine for gold, antimony, and for hydro-power dam projects at Wei Gyi, Hat Gyi and the Da Gwin area on the Salween River.
The Karen People’s Forum statement recommended that government troops should withdraw, landmines should be removed, stop all forms of force labor and stop arbitrary taxation during the peace negotiation process.
The Karen People’s Forum recommendations in full are that “the peace process must be genuine, transparent and sustainable. The government must withdraw all its troops based in villages and in areas where villagers carry out their livelihoods, so that villagers can have freedom to re-establish their livelihoods. Land mines in Karen State must be removed. All forms of forced labor and arbitrary taxation must be stopped. There must be constitutional guarantees that people can own their land and farm freely. Internally displaced persons must not be pressured to return to their homes while Burmese troops remain in their areas, and landmines have not been removed. Any plans for return and rehabilitation of internally displaced persons must be drawn up together with local Karen community-based organizations, and must guarantee the security of villagers; special provisions must be made for the protection and welfare of women and children.”
The Karen People’s Forum was founded in1997 with representative elected from villages with the aim to work for rural development.