15,000 Karen people from villages affected by conflict got together to voice their concerns to their community leaders about unfettered developments earmarked for Karen State during the peace process negotiations.
The people’s forum ran from October 26 to 28 and was held in Kyain Seikgyi Township, Karen State.
The 15,000 villagers called for “the suspension of all large scale economic projects until political agreements are in place to ensure community benefits and protection.”
The People’s Forum released a media statement demanding “that both the Myanmar government and the Karen National Union (KNU) improve the cease-fire and peace process, and allow the participation of communities and civil society groups in decision-making in order to have sustainable peace and development in the country.
The media statement issued on November 5 said villagers are concerned “that the current Myanmar government is using the peace process to push forward unregulated and development projects without proper safeguards or policies.”
A people’s forum spokesperson, Saw Lu Ber Moo said.
“Large-scale economic investment must be suspended during the peace negotiations “The government and the KNU must first address the issue of local ownership of natural resources.”
Saw Poe Cho, a relief coordinator with the Karen Office of Relief and Development (KORD) told Karen News.
“After the ceasefire more business groups come into the communities’ areas such as mining and measure lands and others. It creates confusion for the communities. They don’t consult with the communities. It creates fear and concerns for villagers. More NGOs also come in and the villagers have no idea and create confusion as well.”
Saw Poe Cho said that, “some small businesses villagers could accept, as they don’t need much space, but they especially fear the large scale projects – super highways, dams and the huge Dawei project.”
Villagers at the forum demanded that both the Myanmar government and the Karen National Union (KNU) improve the current cease-fire and peace process arrangements, and allow the participation of communities and civil society groups in the decision-making in order to have a sustainable peace and development in the country.
Saw Lu Ber Moo, a spokesperson for the people’s forum said the objective of the two day discussions were achieved.
“We actually aimed to create a space for people to freely come and share their opinions without any fear regarding to the current cease-fire process and mega development projects, and then we collectively make their recommendations to stakeholders.”
The forum was attended by as many as 100 democratically elected community development project leaders from 27 villages from both the Kyain Seikgyi and Ye Townships.