On World Refugee Day 2019, the Karen Peace Support Network would like to thank all the international donors, humanitarian agencies, the Royal Thai government and Thai civil society, and all civil society groups for their continuing support for our rights, safety and dignity since the beginning of our plight.
With this in mind, we now call upon the European Union, UK and other donors to reverse cuts in support to refugees and IDPs in eastern Burma and Thailand, and instead commit to fully funding the basic needs of refugees and IDPs, such as food, shelter, medical care and education.
Burma’s ‘peace process’ began 8 years ago. It is a sad irony to see that at the same time as the international community pledged tens of millions of dollars in support of the ‘peace process’, they have cut support to hundreds of thousands of Burma’s IDPs and refugees – the people most affected by the conflict – people who have lost their homes, livelihoods and family members.
Furthermore, in recent years, hundreds of thousands of new IDPs have emerged in Shan State, Kachin State, Rakhine State and Karen State. These IDPs have also failed to receive enough support from international donors to meet their basic needs, as well as facing restrictions on the delivery of aid by both the military and civilian governments of Burma.
It must be noted that a great many of the areas where refugees and IDPs have fled from are too dangerous for people to return to because of landmines. Clearing areas of landmines to enable safe returns requires a massive mobilization of resources and expertise, including training local people in demining. Such process takes years. Yet no serious efforts on the scale required are being undertaken.
We are concerned by the fact that the international community has been refusing to take adequate action against the Burma Army, whose actions are the main driver in creating refugees and IDPs, and which has created unsafe conditions for them to return. These actions include their use of landmines and increasing militarization of ethnic states – occupying villages, farmland areas and transport routes.
The necessity of Burma Army withdrawal from these areas is another factor which the international community is failing to address. Those countries which supported and welcomed the establishment of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on Myanmar Report have also failed to support and implement its recommendations. These recommendations include referring Burma to the International Criminal Court, imposing a UN mandated global arms embargo, and targeted financial sanctions on the military and their businesses.
As long as the Burmese military are allowed to act with impunity, more refugees, rather than conditions for safe return, will be created.
On World Refugee Day 2019, we, the Karen Peace Support Network, would like to underscore the fact that the conditions for safe return must be felt by the refugees themselves and the return must be voluntary. Cuts in aid should not be used to try to incentivize people to return before it is safe for them to do so.
Humanitarian donors must commit to providing adequate support to meet basic needs until such time that it is genuinely safe for refugees and IDPs to return home.
We also appeal to the Royal Thai government to continue to provide safe temporary shelters for refugees and practically recognize the refugees’ right to legal identity. The recognition of a temporary legal status and the issuance of legal identity documents will lead to the realization of their right to work, right to health and right to education. International donors should provide financial assistance to facilitate this.
Just because a large number of refugees have been living in camps for decades does not mean they don’t exist. It doesn’t mean that they don’t still need to eat, and they don’t still need decent shelter. It doesn’t mean they don’t need medical care and their children don’t need education.
They are not a ‘protracted problem’.
They are human beings. They live, see them!
Media contact Persons:
1. Saw Alex – 0967656615 (Burmese and English)
2. Naw Wahkushee- 0861182261 (Karen and English)
Original statement here.