Continue Aid for Displaced Camps: Karen Organization

By Thu Thu Aung 12 September 2017

YANGON — The International Karen Organization (IKO) has called for continued support for thousands of displaced Karen people until a “genuine nationwide ceasefire” is reached.

The group issued a statement supporting internally displaced people (IDPs) after holding its inaugural conference in Melbourne, Australia, on Sept. 6-8.

The statement urged authorities to refrain from pressuring IDPs to return to their homes they once fled because of conflict—especially by ending humanitarian aid.

One of those camps that has felt pressured, E-Tu Hta located on the bank of the Salween River in northern Karen State’s Papun Township, is facing an uncertain future, as international funding ends in late September.

According to the local community, pressure has increasingly been applied to the displaced people to return home since the Karen National Union (KNU) signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) in 2015.

About 6,000 people on the border between Shan State and Thailand facing a similar situation are calling for continued humanitarian aid.

International non-government organizations have cited progress in Myanmar’s peace process as a reason for cuts to Shan IDP camps.

“IKO delegates decided to find funding among their communities as a short-term solution,” IKO central executive committee member Mahn Orlando told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday. “We also call for continued support from international communities.”

Children aged six and under at E-Tu Hta receive six kilograms of rice every month while older residents receive 12 kilograms.

E-Tu Hta, which hosts more than 2,000 displaced people, was established in 2006 because of conflict between the KNU and Tatmadaw.

KNU representatives, Karen civil society organizations (CSOs) and displaced villagers urged Myanmar Army troops on 31 July to withdraw from the area surrounding E-Tu Hta so that the displaced people could return to their homes without fear.

On September 4, the Ei Tu Hta IDP support committee also submitted a letter to international donors appealing for the continuation of humanitarian aid, as well as short-term rehabilitation programs such as education and livelihood training.

Fifty-five ethnic Karen delegates from 17 countries, 22 observers and two KNU senior members attended the three-day IKO conference in Melbourne, which reviewed IKO’s progress since its formation three years ago.

Karen communities living in Europe, the United States, Canada, and the Asia-Pacific region created the IKO, working with Karen communities and groups inside Myanmar and along its Thailand border to work toward a democratic federal union.

IKO also called on the KNU to review the current peace process in order to achieve a lasting peace and political settlement.