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Ethnic Issues

CBOs Suffer Lack of Funds in Post-Election Burma

Community-based organizations along Burma’s borders say that it is too early to cut humanitarian aid as ethnic ceasefires remain shaky with no genuine peace.


Community-based organizations (CBOs) along Burma’s borders have said that it is too early to cut humanitarian aid as ethnic ceasefires remain shaky and there is not yet genuine peace in minority areas.

Sai Khur Hseng, the secretary of the Ethnic Community Development Forum, told The Irrawaddy that donors moving funding inside Burma were acting prematurely.

“There is no real peace yet,” he said. “There are only ceasefire situations. There is still fighting in Kachin State and more refugees fleeing from the conflict.”

He added that there are also IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) who have escaped from ethnic violence to live in temporary camps inside Burma near its borders. There are an estimated one-and-a-half million IDPs who rely on donated aid so it not practically to stop funding in the current climate, said Sai Khur Hseng.

The Norwegian government is one international aid donor which stopped provided cross-border aid to CBOs in February. Oslo is instead sending aid inside Burma to Rangoon as part of its “fund for peace.”

Mahn Mahn, a leading member of the Backpack Health Worker Team, a medical relief group based in Karen State, said that the Norwegian government should integrate with civil organizations and institution even though they moved aid to Rangoon. “If they do not do integrate, it will create more problems with communities instead of solving them,” he said.

He added that there is no point in stopping providing aid where it is most needed in the conflict-ridden border regions to send money to urban areas instead.

Mae Tao Clinic, based in Mae Sot by the Thai-Burmese border, is the main healthcare center for Burmese migrants and refugees in the area but has only received half its budget this year, according to Abu Dhabi-based newspaper The National.

Meanwhile, 26 Burmese frontier organizations gathered in Chiang Mai on April 6 and 7 for a meeting to discuss the future of cross-border aid and appeal for fresh donations from charity groups.

A variety of international donors which provide funds to Burmese CBOs along the border have been visiting Rangoon recently to make contract with the Burmese government and arrange permission to operate officially inside the country.

But CBOs remain worried that amid the raft of charities preparing to increase humanitarian and development assistance to promote peace in Burma, cross-border aid for vulnerable populations in rural areas will be cut at this crucial time.

The groups said that the aim of the current government is to clearly establish ceasefire agreements with ethnic groups to promote development, rather than promote lasting peace in the country.

A statement by the CBOs dated April 10 said that donors must be responsible and ensure that they do not cause problems for the needy by slashing humanitarian support to ethnic communities.