Update by the Shan Human Rights Foundation
August 30, 2017
As conflict escalates in Shan State, aid must not be cut off to Shan-Thai border refugees
There are currently six camps along the Shan-Thai border, housing about 6,200 refugees (many of whom are categorized as “internally displaced persons” or IDPs, because they stay just inside the Shan border), 70% of these refugees are women and children.
These camps have existed for up to 18 years. Most of the refugees fled the Burma Army’s massive scorched earth campaign in central Shan State during 1996-1998, in which over 300,000 villagers were forced at gunpoint from their homes, and hundreds of villagers were tortured, raped and killed.
Denied the same recognition and access to aid as refugees from Karen, Karenni and Mon States, the refugees in camps on the Shan border have struggled for survival. Situated on remote mountaintop locations, with little cultivable land, and surrounded by Burma Army and United Wa State Army (UWSA) camps, the refugees have managed against all odds to rebuild their communities, setting up schools, health centres, and temples or churches.
This was possible due to the support of international donors, who have provided basic food supplies to the refugees for the past 18 years. Unfortunately, this aid is about to end. As a result of the peace process in Burma, donors have moved their funds away from the border, and have announced they will cut off food aid for all six camps on the Shan-Thai border in October 2017.
In fact, the refugees in camps along the Thai-Shan border are still unable to return home. The Burma Army has not adhered to its ceasefire agreements, and has continued its military expansion and operations throughout Shan State. Civilians continue to face systematic abuse.
Hundreds of the original villages of the refugees lie derelict or are occupied by the Burma Army, government militia or UWSA. New mega projects planned by the Burmese government, against the wishes of local communities, threaten to permanently wipe out scores of villages.
Unless there is a genuine nationwide ceasefire, withdrawal of Burma Army troops, and a political settlement to end the civil war, the displaced villagers dare not return home.
Until such time as the refugees can return voluntarily, in safety and dignity, international donors are urged to maintain adequate humanitarian support for the refugee and IDP camps along the Shan-Thai border.