Karen Peace Support Network’s report launch cancelled

April 25, 2018

Today’s planned launch of Karen Peace Support Network’s (KPSN) new report has been cancelled. The report, titled The Nightmare Returns, focuses on the plight of recent Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from Hpapun District, Karen State, who have been forced from their homes by the Burma Army, and highlights the ensuing humanitarian crisis.

The report launch, scheduled for today in Chiang Mai, Thailand, was blocked for unknown reasons by Thai authorities; however, it is believed that pressure came from the Burma Army, since the findings of the report highlight recent human rights violations against the Karen people in Hpapun District, according to the report’s spokesperson, Saw Soe Doh.

The Burma Army has frequently disregarded protocols and ignored the KNLA’s [Karen National Liberation Army’s] warnings, including encroaching on Brigade 5 [Hpapun District] territory and transporting large trucks into KNLA-controlled areas without prior agreement from the KNLA, as required under the NCA [Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement]. Burma army operations have led to clashes between KNLA and government troops, and has forcibly displaced more than 2,400 people from their homes in the Hpapun area. Food security remains the most critical problem in displaced communities in northern Hpapun. If the Burma Army will not withdraw its troops and control its road construction activities, these IDPs will not be able to return home safely,” said Saw Soe Doh.

The conflict in Hpapun District began in March of this year, after the Burma Army Southern Command began reconstruction of the 15-kilometer-long road between Kay Pu and Ler Mu Plaw. It is believed the road will be used to reinforce and strengthen military communications, and to launch more patrols and offensives. However, the Burma Army has claimed that the north–south road will only be used for local development and administrative purposes. For local Karen villagers in Hpapun, they see the road project as a barrier to free movement, which will restrict access to plantations and farms.  

If the Burma Army refuses to respect the NCA agreement by expanding its militarization in Karen-controlled areas and continuing to commit human rights abuses again civilians, it will remain impossible to ensure a safe return for IDPs in these areas,” Hser Mu Htaw, a resident of Hpapun.

Still no justice for Saw O Moo

On April 5th 2018, Saw O Moo, a Karen land rights defender, Indigenous knowledge holder, and peace advocate, was apprehended and shot by Burma Army soldiers near his home in Hpapun District, Karen State. He had been returning home after helping coordinate humanitarian assistance for Karen villagers who were forced from their homes and are now hiding in the forest. Saw O Moo’s wife and seven children, who have also been forced to flee the fighting, have been unable to retrieve the body of their loved one, as every attempt has been met with shots from Burma Army soldiers who continue to patrol the area.

This murder of an Indigenous community leader and land defender by the Burma Army violates not only basic human rights, but also the NCA, which prohibits military attacks while peace negotiations are ongoing,” according to a statement by KPSN.

Our network has urged the Burma Army to allow Saw O Moo’s family to retrieve his body in order to give him a proper burial. The NLD [National League for Democracy] government, as well as the Burma Army, should strongly condemn the murder of Saw O Moo and issue a public apology to his family,” said Saw Soe Doh.

KPSN’s report also urges the NLD government and Burma Army to immediately implement measures to prevent further attacks and human rights abuses against civilians in Hpapun District. The Burma Army must cease all shoot-on-sight activities against civilians, follow standard arrest procedures, and ensure no impunity is given to those who violate these procedures.

KPSN is the largest network of Karen civil society organizations in Burma. These organizations have been providing support for vulnerable people in this conflict-torn region for decades, striving to empower local communities, build transparent and accountable institutions, and create sustainable peace in Burma.

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