KWO and Karen Community Based Organizations’ Statement on the Release of Return Position Paper

For Immediate Release: 11 September 2012

 Karen Community Based Organizations

Release Position Paper on Refugees’ Return

Today a grouping of Karen Community Based Organizations (KCBOs) released their collective position in response to recent news about the repatriation of refugees. The position paper outlines the pre-conditions and processes necessary for a successful and voluntary return of refugees from several camps along the Thai-Burma border, back to Karen areas. Repatriation without these pre-conditions and processes will be against the will of the refugees and will not respect their right to return voluntarily in safety and with dignity.

 “We are encouraged by the changes in Burma but there are many improvements that would need to happen before refugees would be safe to return,” said Dah Eh Kler from the Karen Women’s Organization (KWO). “We fled the fighting and the abuse by the Burma Army. We know the ceasefires are still fragile and do not yet include an enforceable code of conduct; the troops are still all around our former villages, along with land mines and other dangers. We hope that we can go home one day soon, but it is just not possible under the current conditions in Karen areas.”

 The position paper is a comprehensive view of what the Karen community needs in order to go home. It outlines several pre-conditions that must be met before refugees return to Burma, including: achievement of a political settlement between ethnic armed groups and the Burma government, agreement on a nationwide ceasefire, guaranteed safety and security for the people, clearance of land-mines, withdrawal of all Burma Army and militia troops, end of human rights violations, abolishment of all oppressive laws and resolution of land ownership issues.

“We have learned from the UNHCR that the Burma government has already planned the locations to which refugees will be repatriated. KCBOs were very surprised to hear this as we and the refugees themselves have not been consulted properly on where, when and how they will be repatriated. Refugees have the right to make free choices on where, when and how they will return to their homeland,” said Ko Shwe from the Karen Environment and Social Action Network (KESAN).

 In order to make their own choices about their return, the KCBOs have outlined specific processes that must take place, including defining how consultations with refugees and affected communities must be conducted and how refugees and KCBOs must take part in the decision-making process at all stages, including in preparation, implementation and post-return phases.

 For the full list of pre-conditions and necessary processes, please see the attached position paper.

For more information, please contact:

 Saw Ko Shwe, KESAN: +66825047718                Nan Dah Eh Kler, KWO: +66857269291
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About Karen Women Organisation

The Karen Women Organisation was formed in 1949 and has a membership of over 64,100 women. KWO is a community-based organisation of Karen women working in development and relief in the refugee camps on the Thai border and with IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) and women inside Burma. Since our formation in 1949 we have expanded our focus from one of purely social welfare to try to encourage an awareness of Women's Rights and to promote women’s participation in the community decision making and political processes. The objectives of the KWO  To assist women in the endeavour to be free from all forms of oppression.  To promote and empower women in all spheres of life, including education and general living standards.  To encourage women to participate in the struggle for freedom, democracy and equality.  To develop women's knowledge, ability and skills, including political and organizational skills.  To achieve the rights of women and equal status with men.  To promote and maintain Karen culture and traditions.  To improve the well-being of women and children and to increase their access to adequate health, education and welfare services. KWO aims to empower women through offering various capacity building trainings to teach skills, build confidence and create new opportunities so that women will be better able to solve problems. We are working hard to educate ourselves and our communities so that we can work more effectively and advocate for our struggle on the international stage. We believe that women’s contribution is an essential factor in the peace-building and national reconciliation processes of Burma.