A report released by the Karenni Civil Society Network (KCSN) has claimed that the Norwegian led Myanmar Peace Support Initiative (MPSI) is putting the security of returning internally displaced persons (IDPs) at risk by placing them in areas under Burma Army control.
The MPSI is a Norwegian led “international initiative to support peace in Burma through development and humanitarian assistance. The initiative has launched dozens of pilot projects in Burma’s ethnic states, including Karen, Karenni, Shan and Mon States, including projects assisting the possible resettlement of IDPs, education assistant and humanitarian aid.
The KCSN report maintained that a pilot resettlement project for IDPs in Shadaw Township was risky because it “encouraged IDPs to return to an area controlled by the Burma Army where their safety cannot be guaranteed.”
KCSN said that there were more than 20 Burma Army outposts in Shadaw Township area alone.
“Instead of encouraging IDPs to return home before it is safe, international donors should be trying to ensure that the rights of conflict-affected villagers are protected,” a spokesperson for KCSN said, “There must be pressure on the government to pull back its troops from the ethnic areas and start political dialogue towards federal reform.”
The KCSN said that MPSI claimed that the program has so far supported 1,431 IDPs wishing to return to the 10 villages, which make up Shadaw Township in Karenni State since June 2013. KCSN refuted these numbers, however, estimating that only a third of that number were actually living in the villages, while the rest merely used the land for farming, but did not resettle out of fear of nearby Burma Army positions.
KCSN said it was concerned that, rather than fostering peace, the MPSI could further inflame conflict by “ignoring” Karenni civil society organisations, which have provided primary health and education services to the local population for decades.
“Donors should not just give one-sided support to expand government services into ethnic conflict areas. This won’t be effective, and will only increase resentment and fuel conflict,” KCSN said.
The government signed a ceasefire with the Karenni National Progressive Party in 2012.