THE UNITED Nations human rights body on Wednesday was alarmed by a move by Thai authorities to block the launch of a report revealing the humanitarian crisis in neighbouring Myanmar’s Karen state.
The report, “The Nightmare Returns: Karen hopes for peace and stability dashed”, was to be released at the Seven Fountains Centre on Chiang Mai province’s Huey Kaew Road, accompanied by an exhibition and panel discussion.
Shortly before the event was due to start Wednesday afternoon, local police told the organiser not to go ahead with the activity, a representative of the Karen Peace Support Network (KPSN) said. “They gave no reason. They just said we couldn’t do it,” said a NPSN staff member.
Local police in Chiang Mai could not be immediately reached for comment.
In the report, obtained by The Nation, the Karen ethnic community urges the Myanmar military to honour the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement. It said more than 1,500 government troops had crossed into areas controlled by the Karen National Union (KNU).
The ethnic group planned to raise awareness about the plight of more than 2,400 Internally Displaced People recently forced from their land and homes in Mutraw’s Luthaw township by the Tatmadaw (Myanmar military). Cynthia Veliko, the regional representative of the UN Human Rights Office for Southeast Asia said her office continued to closely monitor the situation regarding rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, and has consistently urged Thailand to fully respect these rights.
“We are alarmed by the pressure exerted by security agencies which led to the cancellation of this critical event by the co-organisers. This raised worrying concerns on the space available for freedom of expression, academic freedom and the importance of dialogue on this matter,” she said.
The KNU has been fighting for autonomy against the Myanmar government since independence from Britain in the middle of the last century.
Along with other armed ethnic groups, the KNU signed the National Ceasefire Agreement with Myanmar authorities in 2015. The truce pact called on all parties to prioritise political dialogue instead of force of arms, requiring that they confine their troops within designated areas. It stipulates that the movement of armed troops in areas controlled by the other party is allowed only after obtaining prior agreement.
However, the Karen said in the report that the Myanmar government did not honour the agreement, provoking dozens of armed clashes with the armed ethnic in the KNU controlled areas. The clashes displaced thousands of people from their farming land and homes.
As the Tatmadaw is showing no sign of withdrawing from their offensive positions, the displaced Karen are now facing the spectre of protracted displacement, and severe food and physical insecurity, the NPSN report said.