Civil society groups voiced their disappointment that the government ministers appointed to its Peace Committee failed to address many of the questions that representatives from 64 community-based-organisations brought to a meeting held at the Myanmar Peace Centre on Sunday.
Nan Thandar Aung, a representative from the Karen Women Action Group (KWAG) who was at the meeting, spoke to Karen News.
“When we asked specific questions on the conflict in Kachin State and what was the returning process for Karen refugees, the government representative could not give us any concrete answers.”
Nan Thandar Aung complained that the civil society groups at the meeting did not have enough time to discuss the issues – the government representatives gave only three minutes each to the group and only 20 groups out of 64 got to ask questions.
Delegations from government’s Peace Making Committee, led by its vice-chairperson, President’s Office Minister, U Aung Min, and representatives from civil society groups’ met at the Myanmar Peace Centre, in Rangoon on Sunday.
The meeting was attended by over 90 representatives including; U Aung Min, Minister U Soe Thein, Minister U Khin Yi and representatives from 64 civil society groups. The government called the meeting to discuss the country’s peace building process and the repatriation of refugees and displaced people.
The community representatives said that the government had shown a lack of transparency by failing to discuss repatriation issues related to sending back of Karen refugees from camps along the Thai-Burma border. Government ministers recently met with the United Nation High for Commissioner Refugees (UNHCR) and the Thailand Burma Border Consortium (TBBC), but the community based groups claim that the government has not discussed the issues with refugees and civil society groups.
Speaking to Karen News, Nan Thandar Aung said.
“We’re concerned over the lack of transparency in government’s actions. Minister U Aung Min has said that he welcomes the Internally Displaced People (IDP) and refugees to return and that they [the government] has started work to remove landmines, but there is no detailed explanation of the process.”
Nan Thandar Aung said that U Aung Min told the meeting that he had had three rounds of peacetalks with the Kachin Independence Organization in an effort to reach a peace agreement, but admitted he had fail.
This is the first time the government has held discussion between its ‘Union Peace Making Committee’ and the country’s civil society groups, it is expected that there will be future discussions. It is a path the President, U Thein Sein, had set when he met with the country’s civil society groups in January and sought their cooperation on the peace building process.