The government-backed Myanmar Peace Center (MPC) met with the Karen Peace Support Network (KPSN), that represents 28 Karen community based organizations, to discuss concerns regarding a Japanese economic development blueprint for South East Burma.
Following the September 11 meeting, Naw Susanna Hla Hla Soe, from KPSN spoke to Karen News.
“Primarily, we discussed how the two sides would cooperate on issues occurring in Karen State. In our network, member organizations like KESAN have been conducting field surveys and a team from MPC also had conducted a field survey. We are only sharing the information related on the field survey.”
The KPSN held a press conference and launched its report titled – Critique of Japan International Cooperation Agency’s Blueprint for Development in South-Eastern Burma/Myanmar – at the Myanmar Journalist Network (MJN) office in Yangon on 9 September and called for a moratorium on large-scale development projects in Burma.
Naw Susanna Hla Hla Soe said that her organization shared with MPC the same issues that they raised at their press conference.
U Tin Aung Moe, from MPC told Karen News that, “We met with KPSN with the aim to be able to cooperate with the stakeholders based in ethnic areas as the MPC also has plans to carry out developments in these areas.”
A Plan Mired in Controversy
The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), an aid agency under the Japanese government, published its blueprint for development that caused outrage among Karen community groups.
The Karen community organizations said the ‘blueprint’ raised serious concerns regarding the potential political, economic and environmental impacts in the area. In a statement last week, the KPSN said that JICA’s 593-page plan ‘Preparatory Survey for the Integrated Regional Development for Ethnic Minorities in the South-East Myanmar’ was “premature”, “flawed”, and could “exacerbate conflict” in the region. KPSN also said that JICA had not adequately consulted local communities before publishing the plan.
A spokesperson from JICA had earlier responded to criticisms of the plan and said that all stakeholders would be consulted.
“Proposals of project ideas, regional development vision and development scenario in initial study are just JICA’s proposals and nothing has been decided to be implemented. In the implementation stage of the said project, we will discuss and agree on those proposals with stakeholders…” the spokesperson said in an email to Karen News, adding that the stakeholders included ethnic minority groups and local residents.
The JICA study has led to concerns over its recommendation of large-scale development projects in Karen and Mon States, which include infrastructure development, industrial estates and rubber plantations. The aim of the plan is to help facilitate the durable return of refugees and villagers internally displaced in Burma.
Naw Susanna Hla Hla Soe said that MPC told them at the meeting that JICA is carrying out projects in preparation for the resettlement of refugees in Karen and Mon State independently and that there has been no official permission obtained from the government.
The KPSN delegation team was led by coordinator Saw Mathew Aye, and included Saw Paul Sein Twa, Naw Susana Hla Hla Soe, Saw Tha Moo and Saw Tha Boe. The MPC executive officer, U Kyaw Soe Hlaing led its delegation team and included U Tin Aung Moe, Dr. U Kyaw San Oo and U Kyaw Thu Ya.