The delegation spoke in the UK Parliament at a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Democracy in Burma, providing a unique opportunity for British Parliamentarians to hear directly from refugees on the border and organisations working on the ground providing assistance for these refugees.
The delegation consists of Ms Sally Thompson, Executive Director of The Border Consortium, Mr Luiz Kaypoe from the Karenni Refugee Committee and Ma Naw Ta Mla Saw from Karen Women Organisation.
TBC provides food, shelter, camp management and livelihoods support for 110,000 refugees in Thailand and 120,000 Internally Displaced Persons in Myanmar. KnRC is a grassroots organization that provides support to Karenni and other ethnic minority refugees from Myanmar currently residing in two camps in Thailand. KWO is a community-based organisation with a membership of over 49,000, working to empower Karen women to develop their own communities in education, health and social welfare. KWO also provides assistance for refugees and IDPs along the border areas.
While in the UK, the delegation will also be meeting with Department for International Development Minister Desmond Swayne MP, officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, other key Parliamentarians, NGOs, representatives from the Burmese community and members of the media.
“As refugees, we are under tremendous pressure in the camps. There have been many reductions in services including cuts to healthcare, education, shelter, and food. We feel we are being forced to choose between being hungry in the camps or being forced to return and abused in Burma. We desperately want a better choice”, said Ma Naw Ta Mla Saw, Joint Secretary 1 of the Karen Women Organisation.
“We want donors to commit to stay with refugees through a sustainable return in the future”, said Ms Thompson of TBC.
Commenting on the current political situation in ethnic areas, Mr Luiz Kaypoe, secretary of the Karenni Refugee Committee said: “Our ethnic people want peace, but the Burmese government use peace to twist and kill our people. Sadly, the international community focuses only on the situation in Rangoon and Nay Pyi Taw, and ignores what’s going on in ethnic areas. We want our ethnic people’s voice to be heard”.