Japan to open Myawaddy information center for refugees

Mr. Yuki Nishimori, a consultant with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) that is working on assessing the potential for development projects for the Japanese government in Mon and Karen State, met with officials from the Karen National Unions’s liaison office in Myawaddy to discuss opening an information center on issues related to refugee and internally displaced people.

The meeting in Myawaddy was attended by U Thein Zaw Kan, a Myawaddy Township administrator, U Myint Shwe, from the Project for Progress in Border Areas, Padoh Saw Pan Ti from the KNU’s Brigade 7 liaison office, Saw Moses from the Brigade 7 economic office and Naw Say Yar Bright.

Speaking to Karen News, Saw Moses said.

“Mr. Yuki Nishimori came and discussed about opening an information center for Karen refugees in Thailand and IDPs in Karen State. Mr. Yuki Nishimori explained that the purpose [of the centre] was to give accurate information to refugees.”

Mr. Yuki Nishimori is JICA’s development consultant looking at the resettlement of refugees and IDPs and said he was here to discuss opening an information center with the relevant government departments. Mr. Yuki Nishimorisaid talks were held with the Karen State, Chief Minister, U Zaw Min and State Department Ministers at the government office in Hpa-an on June 5. Mr. Yuki Nishimori also held meetings with the Chief administrators of Myawaddy Townships, Districts officers and the Ministry of Immigration in Myawaddy District on June 12.

Speaking to Karen News, Saw Eh Doh, an interpreter for Mr. Yuki Nishimori said.

“He [Mr. Yuki Nishimori] met with people from the KNU liaison office and explained what his mission was. As Myawaddy acts as a gate between the two countries, he wants to open a Information Center for refugees to support and provide detailed information before refugees actually make the decision to return. Mr. Yuki Nishimori said this information is of vital importance to refugees – they need to know ‘Is their area have peace?’, Are areas still landmined or not?, ‘If they return, is there support available for them or not?”

Mr. Yuki Nishimori said that as the JICA delegation, he will send his final report to the Japanese government at the end of July, and if all the organizations involved, including the Burma government agree, and if the Japan government agrees they will open an information center.

Saw Eh Doh said Mr. Yuki Nishimori would return to Japan in July.

“They will report to the government and wait for the result before coming back in September or October. JICA plan to open [Information Centre] it in October.”

Since mid-March, JICA consultants Mr. Yuki Nishimori and Mrs. Arkiko Abe met with the Karen Refugee Committee (KRC), the Committee of Internally Displace Karen People (CIDKP) and other Thailand based organizations and were told that it was not possible to return refugees or IDP’s as the situation was not safe.

Saw Eh Doh explained.

“The Burma government said that they have planned details for the return [of refugees], but JICA assume that the refugees did not receive the true information. Their idea is for the returnees to get the information at the same time and at the same place in the information center so they put up this proposal to open it.”

The KRC joint secretary, Naw Blooming Night Zan, said that KRC had formed an Information Committee in May to provide ‘true’ information for refugees and that information committees were formed inside all Karen refugee camps along the Thai-Burma Border.

Naw Blooming Night Zan stressed.

“We formed information committees, not only for issues regarding repatriation, but also to gather other relevant camp information. The camp level committee was formed with five people in Mae La refugee camp and three people in the other refugee camps. These committee members will be given ‘information gathering training’ in July.”

The JICA group is assessing not the repatriation of refugees, but also evaluating how well informed refugees and migrant communities are able to understand and to make decisions about their return to their former homes.

The JICA team were allowed to observe the refugee camp situation on a one-day trip to Umphiem camp in April, but were restricted by Thai security officers in the camp from questioning or talking to refugees.

According to information received from JICA, the Karen State government plans to receive and house returning refugees and IDPs in the nine sub-Townships including Hlaingbwe, PaingKyone, Shan Ywar Thit, Naungkine, Sukali, Wawlay and other three places in Karen State.

In February, JICA opened an information center in Hpa-an Town , in the Yandarnar Depa Section (9).

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