Displacement in Eastern Karen State

1 09 2009

Download the latest English version of Inside News

Karen struggle kept busy assisting displaced communities

A report by the Thailand Burma Border Consortium (TBBC) estimated that 66,000 people were forced to leave their home as a result of, or in order to avoid, the effects of armed conflict and human rights abuses during the past year.

At the time of writing displacement as a result of conflict and human right violations is still ongoing in Eastern Burma, especially in ethnic areas. The ongoing attacks by Burmese army and DKBA troops in Karen State has forced as many as 4,000 villagers in Pa An district alone to seek refuge.

As the situation in Rangoon is getting worse with pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi being sent to prison, the Burmese Army and their militia allies are launching fresh attacks in Northern and Southern Karen state causing displacement to thousands of villagers.

Karen Internally Displaced People (IDP) are facing huge difficulties in every aspect of their survival, there’s no food, health care is poor, there’s a lack of education opportunities, and there’s little access to humanitarian assistance.

A report by the Karen Human Right Group (KHRG) on the food crisis found that the systematic civilian exploitation and regular human right abuses, combined with the absence of state social services or welfare provisions, has served to severely undermine the humanitarian situation of rural communities in Karen state.

There’s no food

Severe food shortages are a major problem for displaced communities. This is due to long term displacement and because of security issues IDP communities are repeatedly on the move because of Burma Army’s operations. Under these circumstances it is impossible for villagers to settle and grow enough food.

The clinic’s three days walk

Health problems such as malaria, dengue, diarrhea, fevers, respiratory diseases and skin diseases are common in displaced communities as they have limited access to health care. In some regions, people have to walk up to three days to get to a clinic and the only transportation available to them is by foot.

The KHRG report also pointed out that villagers have an inadequate supply of food and a severe lack of diversity in their diets means many villagers having to survive for long periods of time on meals of consisting of rice and salt …this also undermines villagers’ resistance to infectious diseases.

We want education

Schools in displaced communities are unable to keep open, as children have to run when Burmese soldiers attack. The TBBC report found that only one out of ten households in hiding areas had unrestricted access to primary school for the whole year.

The International Displaced Monitor Centre (IDMC) also reported in 2008 that IDP children in hiding areas have few learning resources, and open-air classes have often been disrupted by army offensives.

A large percentage of children in areas of conflict have to leave school after primary level, and in areas under the Burmese government control they have been prevented from studying their own culture or languages, having instead to study Burmese.

We need help

It is difficult for humanitarian agents to reach displaced communities because of the restrictions of cross border aid delivery and having to navigate their way through conflict zones.

The Burmese army also blocks IDP communities from trading, getting access to food and communication.

A Human Right Watch (HRW) report confirms that Burmese army offensives have increase displacement in Karen state.

“One result of the Tatmadaw’s [Burmese Army] brutal behavior has been the creation of large numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees among Burma’s ethnic minority communities.”

We need help

An human rights analyst based in Mae Sot spoke to Inside News on the condition of guaranteeing his anonymity says the Burmese army is strategically creating large numbers of displaced people while blocking international aid agencies efforts to deliver assistance.

“The regime is keeping the Karen busy. That means Karen communities have to look after the IDPs by themselves. They will have to put all their resources, financial and human, into trying to help communities in need. This leave the Karen with no time or resources to fight or maintain the level of their for political struggle”

The root cause of displacement is political instability. As long as the military regime is in power and continues it systematic efforts to displace Karen people with little hope of political change, it is unlikely that displacement in Eastern Burma will end.