The Karen National Union’s Mutraw District office released a statement supporting the demands of the displaced villagers living on the banks of the Salween River. The KNU statement said that its standing committee supported the displaced villagers “we view their demands as reasonable and fully support them, as these are necessary conditions for genuine and sustainable peace.
Major Saw Kler Doh, Office In-charge of Mutraw District told Karen News that the local KNU authourity see the demands of villagers as a neccesary step to be taken.
“Villagers had to flee their villages when the Burma Army came in and occupied them. Since there is ceasefire agreement now, villagers would like to go back to their orignial villages and conduct livelihood activities. So in order to do that, they demand for the withdrawal of Burma army bases and we consider this as something that need to be done.”
The 4,000 villagers were driven from their homes by Burma attacks in 2006 are housed at the Ei Tu Hta displacement camp. The villagers staged a protest last week demanding the Burma army withdraw from their farms and villages to allow them to return home in safety.
The KNU statement explained why it was supportive of the Ei Tu Hta villagers’ demands for the removal of the Burma Army from their lands.
“The Burmese government army’s occupation and building of military roads, their protracted persecution, continued atrocities, and indiscriminate killings are the root causes of these civilians fleeing their homelands and living in a constant state of fear for decades.”
Saw Paw Lae Ga Li La, a villager originally from Saw Mu Plaw village in Mutraw District who is now residing in Ei Tu Hta camp said that the past treatments of Burma Army toward the villagers are still frightenning them.
“The reason we are afraid of the Burma Army, is that, since we were born, we haven’t seen them do anything nice for us. All they give us is hardship, grief and a terrifying life. If we must return, then we want the Burma Army to leave our village. Otherwise, we don’t dare to return. If they see women, they rape them. If they see villagers, they shoot and kill them. This is what we have seen with our eyes and heard with our ears. The past terrifies us and we don’t want to experience it again. Because of this, we don’t want to return.”
The KNU pointed out that displaced villagers would be reluctant to return to their lands while the Burma Army camps still occupied them.
“Until, and unless, the government withdraws its troops and army bases, there will be a lack of suitable land to use for livelihoods, as well as no guarantee for a safe return of the IDPs. Thus, these people will certainly not be able to return to their lands.”
The KNU’s Mutraw officials said that it would be taking the villagers demand to the “KNU Central leaders, relevant authorities of neighbouring countries, and other related organizations about this issue, and have requested them to support the IDP communities’ demands. We regard the demands of the civilians as a genuine prerequisite for them to be able to securely return to re-establish and restore their homes and livelihoods.”