Karen leader: “Not the time to send refugees and displaced back…”

IDP villagers on the run, Taw Oo

The Karen National Union’s general secretary, Padoh Kwe Htoo Win, in an exclusive interview with Karen News explains why now is not the right time to return refugees or displaced people.

“When there is no more fighting and no more human right violations, they [displaced people] can start to rebuild their lives. Since we don’t have a concrete ceasefire, we cannot return IDPs. To test [conditions for the return], we’ve started pilot projects in some areas. For example, in Kyauk Gyi, for IDPs to rebuild their lives, we’ve got support for them. Similarly in the Megui/Tavoy area, we have done initial projects to test the position of the government on the peace building process by starting to rebuild displaced communities.”

Padoh Kwe Htoo Win acknowledges that despite the pilot programs and the ceasefire agreement conditions for displaced people is still dire.

“To organize and carry out [the IDP return] in every area and at the same time is not possible at the moment – it will depend on the durability and consistency of the ceasefire and if there is a political solution.”

Padoh Kwe Htoo Win wants a full guarantee for refuges that the country is secure for them to return.

“Refugees had to flee their homes, cross over borders and take shelter in other countries because of armed conflict and persecution. I think everyone wants to go back to his or her own place. But the return must have the full guarantee [that the area] is free from conflict, persecution and it needs to be well planned and prepared for them to be able to rebuild their lives.”

Padoh Kwe Htoo Win said that there is a need for refugees to be given timely information about their status, rights and the regions they want to return to.

“The most important thing is for refugees to get accurate information, for example they need to know information about the area where they want to return to and rebuild their lives. They must [be allowed] to make their own decision whether to return or not. Since there is no more fighting, some people have gone back by their own arrangement. This depends on them if they get enough information to make their own decision to go back, we won’t stop them.”

Padoh Kwe Htoo Win is concerned that refugees are not getting accurate information.

“If they go back without having enough information and without having enough preparation, we won’t encourage them. The return of refugees depends on the political situation in Burma, the preparation of the government, the care and support from the international community – all this is important –and the return [of refugees] should happen only after a concrete ceasefire is agreed on and there are developments on a political settlement.”

Padoh Kwe Htoo Win stressed that he does not think it is the right time to return refugees.

“I don’t think the time is right now because there has not been enough preparation and not enough information given to refugees about it.”

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