The Kyaukkyi Pilot Project in Kler Lwee Htoo (Nyaunglebin) District, Bago Region
Phase Two – Field Visit Report
Project Name: Community Livelihood Empowerment and Trust Building (CLETB)
Dates of visit: Dec 13-17, 2013
Locations visited: Mu Thae village of Kyaukkyi Township, Bago Region
Following the first phase of CIDKP’s Kyaukkyi pilot project, the second phase commenced in September 2013 for duration of one-year. Phase 2 of the project is an expansion, which provides short-term intervention by CIDKP to allow the targeted Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) communities to begin the process of recovery, building trust in the Peace Process and, testing the sincerity of the Burmese government and KNU in the Peace Process.
As a need for continuation of trust building in the Peace Process, the second phase of Kyaukkyi project was designed to improve the wellbeing and livelihood situations of the IDP community. One of the objectives is to increase confidence among communities and different stakeholders in the Peace Process. Myanmar Peace Support Initiative (MPSI) conducted a community consultation meeting at Mu Thae village on Jan 15 with different stakeholders.
Present at the meeting were representatives from the international community, U Zaw Lin Htway (Myanmar Army Tactical Commander), Lt. Col. Saw Eh Kalu Poe (KNDO Regiment Commander), Saw Khne Htoo (KNU Kyaukkyi Township Chirman), Saw Ber Htoo (CIDKP), Saw Kaung Khant Swe (CIDKP), Ko Zaw Min Htut (NPA PO), Augustine (NPA SPO), and about fifty villagers from Khe Der village tract.
At the beginning of the meeting, Dr Ashley South from MPSI explained their role, which is to support the Peace Process between the Burmese government and other ethnic armed groups, to build trust in the Peace Process and, to test the sincerity of the Burmese government and NSG.
Representatives from the international community explained that they were there to listen to the hopes, concerns and the views of the IDPs in Peace Process.
KNDO commander, Lt. Col. Saw Eh Kalu Poe, opened and said that he was thankful to all for coming there to help the people and to support the Peace Process. He asserted that although MPSI’s role is small, he has come to see the impact, which is very big. He continued, “We all are expecting peace and we still need to try a lot to get to that. If everyone involves with the process cooperatively, peace will surely be achieved one day. Thus, let’s try our best to get peace”.
When asked how the current situation was different from two years ago, the IDPs reported that they are able to move and travel freely to Mu Thae village and even to Kyaukkyi town without interrogation. They still do feel a little afraid of the Burmese Army, but now it is much easier to move around, and there is no need to hide and run anymore, and they are able to do farming in a stable environment. The villagers also reported that at present seven families have moved back to their original village already, and this year all the villagers are planning to move back to their original villages (Khe Der village). This way, they will test the ceasefire, and whether it allows them to re-build their lives and communities.
The international community asked what were the changes and improvements for family life and children because of last years project. One woman stood up and said that previously they were not able to come to Mu Thae without being accompanied by men. Now they are able to come to Mu Thae without men. The children are able to go to school without fear, without hiding and they are able to finish their education till the end.
When their children are sick, they have to send their children to KNU health department and if they cannot go, they have to ask the health workers to come to the place where the sick are. And also they use traditional medicine for the sick. When asked what they wanted to see in the future, another woman stood up and said that the most important thing for them is freedom, peace, stable livelihood for their lives, and they want to come back to live in their original villages. She also requested the Burmese government, KNU leadership and international community work for real peace in Burma, as she is afraid that the ceasefire will break down again. Only through working cooperatively, their hopes will come true one day. For that there first needs to be dialogue, then the dialogue will build understanding and that understanding will lead to unity. And finally there will be development.
The villagers raised their concerns that they are afraid to do farming close to the military outposts. The tactical commander, U Zaw Linn Htway, replied that that might be personal fear. He said that he can prove that there are some villagers working or doing farming very close to the military outposts and their farming land is only 15 meters far from their outpost, and there are no problems with that. The commander also stated that he helped the KNU (Saw Eh Htoo) by providing rice for them.
In the meeting they also requested national ID cards so that they will be able to go to other towns and cities.
Meeting with the Bago Region Cabinet:
After the visit to Mu Thae, the team returned to Bago, in time to meet with the Chief Minister and his cabinet in the evening. Before dinner, presentations were made by NPA, MPSI and, importantly, by Saw Ber Htoo (CIDKP). It was important that CIDKP presented a report on the pilot project, and plans for the future, in front of Bago Chief Minister and key members of the regional cabinet, as the international community was able to publicly endorse it. After the presentations, there was dinner and discussions, in which KNU Kyaukkyi Chairman and government officials (including Deputy Speaker of the Bago Parliament and chief of police, and U Jubilee San Hla, Bago Karen Affairs Minister) and, Mr Aksel and Ko Zaw Zaw from NPA.
Observations during the trip:
Unlike previous consultation meetings, about fifty villagers attended the consultation meeting in Mu Thae this time though only twenty villagers were invited. This is a sign that they are confidant to travel and attend the meeting.
In previous meetings, no women participated or came to the meeting. This time two women participated and stood up and answered questions and requesting their needs. It is learned that those two women had just finished the Self Reliance Group (SRG) training in December 2013 conducted by CIDKP with the help of the Lone May organisation.
In the informal conversation along the way, KNDO Regiment Commander and KNU township chairman showed appreciation to NPA for supporting the project. Due to the pilot project, KNU were informally able to cooperate such as meeting between armed groups and, reconstruction of the road from Mu Thae village to Kyaukkyi. There have been no fighting incidents in KNU 3rd brigade area within the last 2-year ceasefire period. The KNU said that they would regard the pilot project as a good model to carry on trust building in other brigades of KNU controlled area.
It is observed that the dinner with the Bago government was very fruitful and it is a kind of building the legitimacy of MPSI-CIDKP work, and strengthens the relationship between the donor, CIDKP, MPSI and government.