The Karen Women’s Organisation released a statement to commemorate the 2016 World Refugee Day and said that despite recent positive changes in Burma people are still being displaced by Burma Army offensives.
“Despite the on-going peace process in Burma today, thousands of ethnic people are fleeing fighting, and many of them are not able to cross international borders to safety.”
The KWO statement pointed out that “…thousands of people in Burma are running from the shelling by the Burmese Army in villages in Kachin State and in Shan State.”
The KWO said that it “acknowledge the suffering of those people. We know well what they are going through. Many of them are therefore internally displaced and trying to survive with very little outside assistance.”
The KWO in its statement welcomed the positive changes taking place in Burma but pointed out that it has not changed much for ethnic people.
“It has not yet translated into similar levels of positive change in Karen State and other ethnic States. For example, even though there has been a preliminary ceasefire in Karen areas since 2012, and a civilian government came into power in Burma this year, the Burmese military still has enormous independent power.”
KWO said that Burma’s 2008 Constitution drafted under the military regime was a stumbling block to peace as it still gave the Burma Army huge power.
“The country is still under the 2008 Constitution that ensures a leading role in politics for the Burmese military. The Burma Army camps are still stationed in the areas where refugees come from, and in fact have increased in size and number. Human rights violations continue to be perpetrated by Burmese soldiers against civilians.”
The Karen Women’s Organisation said that refugees living along the Thai Burma border are caught in a hard place and see cuts by international donors and talk of repatriation by UN agencies as generating pressure on refugees.
“We feel it is still very premature for a safe and dignified refugee return. We see on a daily basis, refugees receiving less food rations, and significant cuts to the already very basic health and education services. We imagine if this continues then life in camps will no longer be sustainable.”
The KWO statement reiterated that the recently elected National League for Democracy government has little influence over the countries military.
“The Burmese soldiers are not under the control of the civilian government in Burma, and have reinforced their military camps near Karen villages, farms, and roads. No progress has yet been made to remove the many thousands of landmines which lie in wait for the innocent.”
The KWO pointed out that despite plans and preparation to repatriate refugees ongoing for years, “our voice is not heard and our concerns are not addressed. Decisions are made about us, without us. Many NGOs and UN agencies have done very little really to prepare refugees to go back or to help build the services and communities that we will return to.”