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Karen Women’s Organization Letter of Appeal on World Refugee Day

By Karen women's Organization  •  June 20, 2014

I am a woman. I am a refugee. This is my life. Listen to my voice. On World Refugee Day, it is our desire to appeal to the governments, to UNHCR and to all stakeholders, that the rights of refugees be valued and respected.

After the Karen National Union started peace talks with the Burmese government on peace building and a ceasefire, news began to spread of refugee return. News of refugee return makes the refugee community confused and nervous because they have not received enough clear information about return, nor have refugees been adequately consulted regarding the return process. The governments, UNHCR and NGOs have continued preparing for refugee return by having meetings, surveys, pilot projects, and different kinds of activities. In addition, there are set locations for refugees to return to and buildings, including business and vocational activities, being prepared for the return of refugees. Because  these  plans  are  not discussed with  the  refugees,  it  makes  the  refugees  confused  and worried in many ways. Unfortunately, this is the situation that has been facing refugees on the Thailand – Burma border since 2012.

The  buildings  that  have  started  to  be  built  in  preparation  for  refugee  return  have  raised  many questions. Who invested the money for these building? Who organized the investments?  What is the purpose of building these new structures? Who will benefit? Will it be refugees? No one is able to answer  our  questions.  The  Karen  Refugee  Committee, KNU,  governments  and/or  stakeholders, all those who take responsibility for the protection of refugees, might not know the answers, but they do have a responsibility to find out, for the sake of transparency and the safety  and trust of the community.

Refugees have positions and opinions regarding their return that need to be respected.  Whenever the question is raised to the refugees, “when do you want to return?” the refugees answer that they will return when the politics in Burma is stable and sustainable, their safety is guaranteed, and there is justice for all.

The process of preparing and planning the return of refugees should only be done with the full, genuine and well-informed involvement of individual refugees and the wider refugee community. Our rights should be respected and our input valued. Refugees are human beings just like everyone else. We hope the Karen, and other ethnic groups in Burma, and IDPs, receive freedom to live, as ordinary citizens, in Burma, with dignity, equality and peace.

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