Representatives of civil societies who met Norwegian Deputy Foreign Minister Torgier Larsen in Chiangmai yesterday, on his return from a visit to Burma were openly skeptical of Norway’s involvement in the country’s reforms and peace process.
According to Mr Larsen, Norway is not forcing the IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) and the refugees on the Thai-Burmese border to return home. “While Oslo is saying that, it is also cutting aid for food, medicines, education and shelters to them,” Charm Tong of Shan Women’s Action Network (SWAN), of 2002’s “License to Rape” report fame, said.
Another NGO worker commented, “The ethnic peoples have suffered so much under the Burma Army’s 4 cut campaigns (cutting food, funds, information and population) against them. As if it wasn’t enough, they are now under another 4 cut campaign from Norway, of all countries.”
Earlier, a Karen rights campaigner had reportedly asked a Norwegian Peace Support Initiative worker, “Do you believe peace can be restored in Burma by cutting off food to the refugees?” The said worker was unable to give a satisfactory answer.
Social workers, on the other hand, say IDP-refugee aid should be maintained until, as Aung San Suu Kyi put it recently, “an environment (is created) that allows citizens to return home in peace when they want to.”
Shan State Progress Party / Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA) that had signed a ceasefire agreement on 28 January but had fought at least 13 clashes since was also critical of the current fragile truce between the two sides.
“Rather than being a ceasefire situation, it is more of a ‘Cease!’ and then, ‘Fire!’, ‘Cease!’ and then, ‘Fire!’ situation,” said Sao Swy Mangrai, a scion of the Kengtung princely house and the group’s foreign relations officer, bring the house down at the meeting room in Furama Hotel.
Mr Larsen understandably refused to discuss the controversial “Norwegian Peace Support Initiative” paper. A copy of it received by SHAN says it is still a draft.
Naypyitaw’s chief negotiator U Aung Min, meanwhile, is said to be calling for another round of talks with the country’s last major group still fighting against it, Kachin Independence Organization / Kachin Independence Army (KIO/KIA). The last round they met was on 21 May in Chiangrai.