New report highlights Mon IDP perspectives on resettlement
October 15, 2012
HURFOM: This week, the Human Rights Foundation of Monland (HURFOM) released a report featuring the voices of 61 Mon internally displaced persons (IDPs) who fled from human rights violations in southern Burma, also known as Myanmar. The report analyzes testimonies regarding perspectives of resettlement and the current situation in their IDP communities, and revealed that just under half of interviewees who discussed relocation were willing to move (47%), while the others wanted to remain in their current villages (53%). [Download Report in PDF Format]
IDPs recounted the conditions that caused their displacement, including human rights abuses committed by the previous military regime and Burmese army as well as violations due to large-scale development projects in Mon areas. Interviews highlighted the inadequate information IDPs have been given about potential resettlement programs, which has created anxiety among communities that heard relocation might be looming but have no additional details.
Nai Aung Ko, a laborer in his 40s that fled to Joukhaprout village, said, “I worried when I heard the news that we would have to move to a new place. I am not sure if this is rumor or truth about the resettlement program, but last month, the village chairman told us that we have to move to Hniquee. We, the residents, must consider our jobs and daily survival needs if we really have to relocate. Most people want to move because they hope to receive plots of land from the NMSP to start plantations. If the NMSP or the new place offers enough land, we can cultivate plantations for our livelihoods. But if they give us just enough land to live on, we don’t want to move there because we worry it will be worse than [here]. I was abused by the Burmese military for half my life, so now I want to live with my family in peace.”
The report also documented gaps in education and health services noted by site residents, describing school costs that have burdened some families and a decline in local healthcare due to shortages of medicine and equipment. Even though medical treatment is free in village clinics, residents say there are no supplies and they have to travel to a hospital that charges for care when they are seriously injured or sick. IDPs also commented on funding reductions that effectively ended food aid in the past year. However, these challenges did not always translate into a desire to relocate.
Nai Aue Mon, HURFOM’s Coordinator for the Human Rights Documentation and Dissemination Program, said, “If we look back to the history of IDPs, the reason they fled from their hometowns was because there were human rights violations by the military, sexual abuse, or forced labor and land confiscation due to large-scale investment. IDPs have endured difficulties for two or three decades in the New Mon State Party-controlled areas and near the Thai-Burma border, where they remain today. If we think about resettling them, it’s important to ask for their opinions regarding the move. I would like to suggest, just as the interviewees did, that if the government, ethnic group authorities, and foreign donors have a plan to relocate IDPs, please make sure to provide accurate information, a guarantee for security, and adequate jobs for them to restore their lives and exist peacefully in the new place.”
For the report, a group of four HURFOM field researchers conducted interviews with residents of 8 IDP sites administered by the New Mon State Party, the predominant ethnic Mon armed resistance group. Field visits included Halockhani and Blehdonphite IDP camps as well as Joukhaprout, Panan Pone, and Chedeik IDP villages, and were conducted over four weeks in August and September 2012.
The Human Rights Foundation of Monland (HURFOM) was founded in 1995 by a group of young Mon people aiming to seek truth and justice for a peaceful democratic transition in Mon State in Burma. Since 2004, the Human Rights Foundation of Monland – Burma (HURFOM) has been one of the key member organizations of the Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma. ND-Burma was formed in 2004 and is a multi-ethnic network providing a mechanism for Burma’s human rights organizations to collaborate on the human rights documentation process.
For more information, please contact: Nai Aue Mon. Program Coordinator, Human Rights Documentation and Dissemination Program, Human Rights Foundation of Monland – Burma (HURFOM). Phone +66 086 167 9741