Refugee advocates on the Thai Burma border have called for international donors to continue funding for refugees and internally displace people in Burma.
The Shan State Refugee Committee (Thai Border) issued a statement that pointed out that “food aid we have received has been gradually reduced, and will be totally stopped in October 2017.”
The Shan State Refugee Committee estimated in its statement that there “are about 6,200 refugees and IDPs in six camps along the border, which have been set up since 1999. Over two-thirds of the camp residents are women and children.”
The Shan State Refugee Committee explained that “refugees and IDPs have all fled from the war and Burma Army persecution, particularly the mass forced relocation during 1996-1998 in central Shan State. At that time, about 300,000 people from over 1,400 villages were forced at gunpoint from their homes. Hundreds were killed, tortured and raped by the Burma Army.
Most of the forcibly relocated villagers, including elderly and young children, fled to Thailand, but have never been given protection, nor been recognized as refugees by UNHCR.”
The Shan State Refugee Committee said that most refugees, despite the dangers wanted “to stay close to our communities in Shan State, some of us settled on the Thai-Shan border. The camps where we stay are located on mountaintops, where it is difficult to grow food. We have therefore had to rely on international donations of rice since our camps were first set up.”
“We cannot yet return to our homes, because our villages are now derelict, or have been occupied by the Burma Army, their militia or the United Wa State Army. Despite the peace process, the Burma Army has expanded its troops, and is continuing to carry out military operations and attacks around our villages. Villagers continue to be arrested, tortured and killed.”
In a gradual process international aid agencies have realigned their humanitarian objectives to work inside Burma with government approval and in doing so withdrew funds from the Thai Burma border.
Similarly, food assistance to Ei Tu Hta Camp, a Karen internally displaced persons camp in Northern Karen State will also be totally stopped in September, 2017. The Karen displaced community face the same difficulty to return as the Burma Army troops are occupying their land.
The Shan State Refugee Committee called for their “rights as refugees to be respected – the right to receive adequate humanitarian aid, and to be given protection until we can return in safety and dignity to our homes once there is a political settlement and genuine peace in Shan State.”