Norway Says IDPs Will Not be Forced Home

An IDP family shelters from the rain in the Karen jungle. (Photo: Free Burma Rangers)

Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) at Burma’s borders will not be forced to move home, according to Norway’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Torgeir Larsen.

The Norwegian government has unveiled a pilot scheme for the resettlement of displaced civilians but has faced fierce criticism for cutting cross-border funding and acting too hastily when Burma’s nascent political reforms appear fragile.

But Larsen reassured dozens of representatives from Burmese NGOs who gathered in northern Thailand on Wednesday that the new initiative would only the first step in the reconciliation process and no one would be encourage to move against their will.

“We have just returned from Rangoon this morning where we met with representatives from the KNU [Karen National Union], military, community groups and IDPs,” he told a crowded meeting at Chiang Mai’s Furama Hotel. “We were strong on listening to the IDPs who have spent years moving around.”

“The government and KNU must take the hard decisions and we are working behind them,” he added. “There will be no change to the work happening in the refugee camps.”

The multi-million dollar “Norwegian Peace Support Initiative” aims to rehabilitate regions in eastern Burma that have been subjected to ethnic conflict for decades with the pilot project already underway in northern Karen state.

It is expected to be expanded to other areas where more ceasefires are agreed, especially in light of this month’s peace deal with the Shan State Army, with resettlement to be realized before the coming of the annual June rains.

Larsen explained that IDPs told his delegation that their major worries about moving home included security and land mines. “We have to consider the Kachin conflict also as we cannot have two different processes in the same country,” he added.

Nang Charm Tong, of the Shan Women’s Action Network, asked if it was wise to cut aid to border areas when conflicts were still brewing there.

“Is it not risky to ask the IDPs to return to their villages when there is not sustainable peace?” she asked. “Are you putting the lives of IDPs in danger to encourage them to go back when the political situation is not settled yet?”

Larsen responded that there was a great opportunity in the present climate to work freely in Burma rather than “in the dark” as before.

“In my opinion, the will of the government is real but the ability has to be tested,” he said. “We have to move in with monitors who have trust. We need to set down parameters about what to do and what cannot be done.

“We do not encourage IDPs to move. We are at the first phase of testing this and it would be irresponsible to ask IDPs to move. But we hope that someday we can see this.”

Thaung Htun, the founder of the Thailand-based Institute for Peace and Social Justice in Burma, said it was wise to maintain a creative approach in dealing with the peace process and that Burma could learn from the Indonesian experience.

“When I speak to IDPs about returning home the first thing they want to talk about is security,” he said. “At the same time we need assessment mechanisms to ensure they observe the ceasefire agreements.

“When ceasefires are independent of the political process they collapse as happened in the 1990s. There has been strong will from the government but will alone is not enough. The military are still accused of human rights abuses so there must be creative options.”

Another part of the Norwegian proposals involve liaison offices for ethnic armies, and creating “community development committees” for sustainable development. There are around 140,000 Burmese refugees in nine camps along the frontier.

However, Tin Tin Nyo, general secretary of the Women’s League of Burma, was concerned that not enough community-based organizations had been consulted in the draft proposal.

“There is a lack of consultation of women and not enough reference to women’s problems,” she said. “We wonder that if women are not consulted whether you can really foster peace in our country.”

4 Responses to Norway Says IDPs Will Not be Forced Home

  1. This so-called consultation is like allowing the rape victim to choose the position.

    Larsen, if he and his government, some of the citizens are already drilling for oil and gas in Burma and they already expressed to build DAMS, are so taken in by this opening business, why not ask their new best friend Burmese military, for which they are pimping, to pull back or disband altogether.

    As there is no longer any animosity with good will government and all that, there is no need for the military any more, is there?

    Why is it then that there are more and more troops around, Larsen?

    So long as there are Bamar Sit-tut, there is no PEACE. They rape, kill, loot, burn, destroy and eat live human flesh.

    This is peace at gun point, Norway style.

    KNU is bought off. Still it doesn’t mean that the Karen people.

    How can Norway say the people are forced back when they stopped funding across the border? It is sheer lie. That was Cham Tong”s point.

    Nowadays even the dissident news sites are toeing Thein Sein line as the funding is precarious.

    For the people! More like for preparation for subsistence wage labourers for future industries of multinational companies.

  2. By the way what is a foreign government doing in Burma?

  3. Can Ohn find a better way to end the plight of the IDPs?
    Is there a way to stop military operations in the areas without really working and trying to get the proof on the ground?
    The Norwegian mission may not stand up to a fast test: it might fail. But I think we, allowing the benefit of the doubt if we have one, can wait and see what they can and cannot do to help the refugees. The refugees are free whether to follow or not to follow Larsen’s lead; they are intelligent enough.
    There is a “gold-rush” in Burma, governments trying to get their country’s businesses enter Burma. What is wrong with that? Norway is just one of them. There aren’t many foreign ministers who does the groundwork to help quash the IDPs’ suffering.
    We must be grateful where gratitude is due. No one is perfect. Is Ohn perfect?

  4. i like this website.good for our people.thank for your

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