50.000 Refugees, dreaming of KAREN STATE in Burma

50.000 Refugees, dreaming of KAREN STATE in Burma


They call us displaced people; but
praise God, we are not misplaced They say they see no hope for our
future; but praise God, our future is as
bright as the promises of God They say they see the life of our
people is a misery; but praise God our life is a mystery But what they say is what they see,
and what they see is temporal But ours is the eternal The third largest ethnic group of
Burma, the Karen, have called the central and southern
parts of the country their home for thousands of years. Despite their long history and fight
for their territory since before British rule, Autonomy from the majority Burmans
and self-determination… continue to evade the Karen in
post-colonial decades. This lack of reconciliation between
the Karen and the central Government has meant decades of state-led
displacement campaigns increased militarisation amongst the
Karen leadership and dire poverty without
provision of basic services for civilians by the state. A combination of these factors led
to a perpetual flow of people across the border to neighbouring
Thailand leading to a refugee crisis. This particular refugee camp on the
Thai-Burma border with a population of almost 50,000 is larger than most of its Thai
neighbours. You know that, when there’s problem people are the victims, they suffer. So, in Burma, not only us, as we call ourselves the political,
or, what do you call, because of the civil war, we cannot live in our land, we have to cross
the border and live here. But there are many, many people
from Burma they have to come and live or work
in Thailand. People living, are suffering,
like, our Karen people are living in the camp and now we have some other groups
also coming. other nationalities are coming to
the camp. But we are only a small number only one 130,000 or 140,000 people. But you know, people across the
border, working in Thailand There are more than, they say,
there are more than 2 million Originating in 1984, this community
has become a microcosm in its own right with elected leaders, administering
the daily logisitics for thousands of families that lie outside the
jurisdiction of the Thai municipality Saw Htoo is aware of the atmosphere
of change that has taken over the urban centres of Burma, and the
ceasefire negotiations between the Karen groups and the Burmese armed
forces that have come to fruition. But he does not correlate these
developments to an immediate solution for his communtiy, which struggles for
basic supplies due to dwindling aid. Our going back would depend on the
changes taking place in the country If these changes include equality for
all ethnicities and if the Government changes into
the type of Government that grants us rights and allows us
autonomy and provides us with the right to
self determination under a system of democratic rule, then of course we will want to go
back. We are waiting to see those changes. We would like to go back with dignity
and only once the Government is prepared to include us and has a
concrete plan. Only then can we return. Those like Saw Htoo, who
experienced deliberate negligence by the Government, whilst living in
remote communities in Karen State feel that their loyalties are with their
local leaders who they claim protected them and provided for their
needs for decades. When we lived in Karen State, we were under the patronage of the
Karen National Union (KNU) The KNU fought for our rights and
self-determination so we feel that they are our leaders While 2012 has been heralded as the
start of historic ceasefire agreements between different ethnic
groups, including the Karen and the Burmese Armed Forces, Imminent return to their homeland is
still a distant notion for this community. People in Burma, not only the
Karen people, but all the ethnic groups what they want is national
reconciliation. Where all, everyone, to sit at the
table and talk. If this military wants to change –
seemingly they are doing some things that appear to be signs for changes.
But it will depend on whether it is sincere, a sincere attempt
for change. The latest ceasefire agreement that has
been reached between the Karen and the Government, has perked the
interest of those who wish to eventually return home. But defining home for hundreds of
thousands whose houses no longer exist in Karen State and
those who have only experienced life in this camp, will be a large scale
challenge even in the event of permanent
peace.

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About the Author: Sam Caldwell

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