Mission and News
This relief mission was to encourage the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), provide health care and to understand and document the IDP situation. The mission dates were 14 April – 2 June, 2005.
The relief team visited two IDP hiding places, where 23 families (a total of 103 persons) lived, and seven forced relocation villages under Burma Army (BA) control. In another area, the team visited 631 households (a total of 3584 people).
The relief team provided medical treatment to 333 patients. Most of the villagers in the mission area are Karen, some Animist or Buddhist and the majority Christian. Villagers living under Burma Army control endure ongoing human rights violations.
**On May 24, the Burma Army arrived at a hiding site and fired on IDPs, which forced the school to close for a while. (see below for IDP education information)
The team provided medical treatment to 333 IDPs at two hiding sites, as well as villagers at seven villages under Burma Army control.
The team learned many things from this experience. Team members worked together with a spirit of unity. Local leaders assisted the team and they coordinated more closely than during past missions.
IDPs and villagers gave the team useful information. Many villagers under Burma Army control would like to meet with the team, but the fear that the Burma Army will discover their plans and force them to stay away from the team. The relief team has learned that villagers are not happy under the Burma Army control. The villagers live in fear without any freedom.
The team members have good morale and are preparing themselves for future trips to visit IDPs in the most desperate situations. The relief team is eager to learn more in order to support villagers in the future. The team hopes that they can do relief trips in emergency situations. The team prays that the people will be free from the suffering they have faced for many years.
IDP hiding sites moved in 1997, when the Burma Army launched a major operation. For security reasons, very few families are living in one hiding place. Hiding sites are far away from one another; half a day to two days walk apart. These IDPs are hiding in deep jungle with fear that the Burma Army troops will attack at any time.
IDP Security There is no security guaranteed for IDPs in the hiding sites. They hide in order to survive. The Karen National Union (KNU) and the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) leaders in the area assist them whenever possible. The IDPs prepare and store their rice paddy in secret. The rice paddy is often destroyed by rats, wild animals, or fire.
IDP Education Schools are not available for many IDP children. Often, there are no schools nearby, it is too dangerous to travel to the schools nearby or they must work for the survival of their family.
IDP Health IDPs in this area are most affected with Malaria. Gastric problems, coughs, anemia, worms, chest infections and skin diseases are ailments often seen by medics treating the IDPs, and occur most often among infants, children, women and elderly people.
IDP Background IDPs living in hiding sites earn their living with slash and burn rice cultivation methods. Some IDPs get a small income from collecting honey and selling it to people from neighboring countries. With their small income they can buy food and other necessities for their families. Due to abnormal weather and insects, they have not harvested enough rice for their families this year. When they sowed the rice paddy seeds, they dried up and now the rice paddy is not growing well. Some rice paddy fields have been destroyed by wild animals.
Some IDPs live directly under Burma Army control. Their living situations are different than IDPs living in hiding sites. These villagers have to obey and follow the Burma Army orders, pay the Army what they demand and do as the Army orders. If they desire to go back to their own village, they must ask permission from the authorities. Without permission and paperwork (only granted for limited dates), they cannot return to their villages. Villagers forced to move from their own villages to these relocation sites are not able to earn their own living. They even have to ask for permission papers in order to fish and hunt outside the village. Villagers in relocation sites under Burma Army control face ongoing human rights violations, including extortion, property confiscation, restricted travel and forced labor.
Relocation Sites: Education There are schools in every village under Burma Army control. Most of the schools are primary school, up to grade two or four. School fees are high and many parents cannot afford the school fees. After graduation from their village schools, most children are unable to continue their education for financial reasons. The Burma Army does not appoint enough teachers for each school. Villagers have to find additional school teachers on their own. The teachers are paid from a collection among the villagers. No school materials or learning materials are provided by the authorities. Villagers have to arrange, provide, and purchase everything for the school.
Relocation Sites: Health There is no clinic and no hospital in the villages where the relief team visited. Medicine is expensive and poor people cannot afford what they need. Most medicine is from China and villagers believe that they are not as helpful or strong as medicines from Thailand. According to the villagers, the Burma Army authorities provide preventive medicine for children once every two years. Malaria, anemia, worms and chest infections are the most common diseases villagers face.
Relocation Sites: Food Villagers that live under Burma Army control are earning their living by gardening and slash and burn rice cultivation. Villagers’ cannot survive on their income from farming because they have to pay many different kinds of taxes and other fees to the Burma Army. Most have to take additional work to have enough. The Burma Army soldiers take whatever they want from the villagers’ gardens. Every year, villagers are forced to pay taxes for motor boats, elephants and rice mills. According to the members of the villages, they must pay extortion money to the Burma Army as well.