Withdraw Troops So IDPs Can Return Home, Karen Groups Urge

By Nyein Nyein 1 August 2017

YANGON – Karen National Union (KNU) representatives and civil society groups in Karen State’s Mutraw District urged Myanmar Army troops to withdraw from Papun Township on Monday so that displaced persons in imminently closing E-Tu Hta camp can return to their homes safely.

As international funds dry up, E-Tu Hta camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) will close in September this year, leaving thousands of displaced people anxious for a possible return to homes they fled due to armed conflict.

Residents are torn between dwindling food rations at the camp and battles for land rights in their homeland due to Myanmar Army occupation in the region, according to Padoh Nay Tha Blay, board member of the newly-formed Internally Displaced Persons Supporting Committee.

“We want the Tatmadaw’s troops to withdraw from farmlands and villages as it is a threat to returnees’ livelihoods, and we want the international community to reconsider cutting funding for Karen IDPs,” he said.

About 100 IDPs have voluntarily returned home, but between 1,000 and 2,000 remain, according to Padoh Nay Tha Blay.

Local residents of Taungoo Township in Bago Division and Papun Township in Karen State—home to KNU brigades No. 2 and No. 5 respectively—sought shelter in E-Tu Hta camp after clashes in 2005 and 2006.

The Internally Displaced Persons Supporting Committee’s Monday statement urged stakeholders to sort out the “political problem” causing displacement.

Even though KNU signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) in October 2015 and there is a roadmap to implement the ceasefire and repatriate displaced persons, the programs have not yet begun in the region.

Padoh Nay Tha Blay said there was a lot left to be negotiated, including the removal of landmines and land rights issues.