Mission Area: Ler Mu Lah Township, Mergui-Tavoy District, Southern Karen State, Burma
Mission Dates: 8 February-16 March 2005
Mission Purpose: To encourage the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) by providing health care and gifts for children and to understand the IDP situation in more depth.
IDPs and villagers in forced relocation sites in this area of Southern Karen State, Burma live with ongoing threats from the Burma Army. The relief team visited five IDP hide sites and relocation villages. The majority of the IDPs in hide sites were displaced from their villages in 1997, with some recent arrivals of villagers fleeing Burma Army persecution following fighting with the KNLA in July and August 2004.
The IDPs have no security and landmines hinder their travel. They focus on finding enough food to survive each day and on keeping hidden from the Burma Army to avoid their abuse. Four to five families live in each hiding site and still live in fear of gathering in larger groups or uniting to start a school and drawing the attention of the Burma Army.
There is little to no opportunity for children in hide sites to attend school. As the team states, ” Many IDP children are in hiding sites, and if the situation continues like this, young children will be uneducated and there will be a larger number of people who can’t speak or read or write in Karen. It will show that the dictators have beaten the Karen in one way.”
The IDPs have no regular health care or access to medicine, but mobile health workers (CIDKP-Committee for Internally Displaced Karen People) do reach some of the sites up to two times per year. The KNLA (Karen National Liberation Army) and the KNU (Karen National Union) leaders in this area assist these IDPs whenever possible. The relief team provided medical treatment to 168 IDPs.
Villagers in relocation sites under Burma Army control face ongoing human rights violations including stolen property, restricted travel and forced labor. There are schools in relocation sites. The villagers have a difficult time reaching their rice fields as they often have only a one day travel pass issued (which they have to pay for), which does not allow enough time to care for their crops.
In an interview with the relief team, an 80-year-old IDP man stated, “If the situation is better I would like to go back and live in the village. But if the Burma Army is still there I dare not to go back.”
The relief team thanked their leaders for guiding and helping them and also everyone who supported the team with medicine, cameras,other materials and funds for the trip. On behalf of IDP children in the hide sites, the team thanks the children all over the world who sent Good Life Club gifts.