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Internally displaced persons (IDPs) at a camp in Papun District, Karen State, have staged a demonstration to call for the withdrawal of Burmese military forces from the area, as well as a campaign to clear landmines.
The protesting IDPs, the vast majority of whom were ethnic Karen, marched around E Htu Hta camp to voice their demands, and said that they are unwilling to return to their own villages until these steps are taken.
E Htu Hta IDP camp has a current population of around 3,000, and has been notified recently that its monthly refugee rations will soon be cut.
“Rations [from international aid groups] will be cut by September of this year,” said IDP Naw The Nay. “This is a serious concern for us. And there is nothing we can do about it. That’s why we are protesting.”
She said that although some IDPs have undertaken preparations to return to their areas of origin, most remain anxious about a lack of infrastructure and livelihood, plus they fear an increased military presence in those areas.
In addition to the withdrawal of government forces and the initiation of a landmine clearance campaign, the IDPs at E Htu Hta called for an end to armed conflict, the adoption of a national ceasefire, and a comprehensive resettlement plan.
“It is not that we don’t want to go back to our villages,” said Naw The Nay. “We really want to go home. But the Tatmadaw [Burmese armed forces] still has bases all around. And of course the area is peppered with mines. It simply isn’t safe for us to go home.”
E Htu Hta IDP camp was established for fleeing villagers after clashes broke out between the Tatmadaw and Karen Nation Union (KNU) forces in 2006.