The Karen Peace Support Network (KPSN), an ethnic organisation network, voiced concern over a Japanese-supported blueprint for economic development in southeastern part of Myanmar.
KPSN said that it is pre-mature and flawed and could worsen conflict in the region.
The KPSN is the largest network of Karen civil society groups comprising 28 local and international organisations providing support for vulnerable people and communities in the conflict-torn region for decades.
“If the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) plan is implemented according to its current model, it could negatively impact our prospects for a peace agreement, endanger the quality of life in our communities, and disempower community-based groups already struggling to have a say in decision-making process,” the KPSN told a press conference, adding that this would all happen at a very sensitive time of change in the country.
The JICA has conducted a study of development options in Myanmar’s Karen and Mon states, recommending large-scale development such as roads, industrial estates and rubber plantations.
Although the JICA stated aim is to facilitate the return and resettlement of refugees but no consultations have been held with refugees and civil society, KPSN said.
KPSN called on the Japanese government to reform its plan and way of doing business, offering concrete recommendations for engaging with the people in the southeast of Myanmar.
“If this JICA blueprint becomes a means to strengthen centralised government structures while ignoring local ethnic participation, it will fuel the ongoing conflict rather than help support a sustainable peace,” the group added.
The JICA blueprint is officially called the “Preparatory Survey for the Integrated Regional Development for Ethnic Minorities in South-East Myanmar”.
Denying to meet KPSN, JICA project team leader T Hashimoto said in a press statement, citing JICA’s response to the Karen Environmental and Social Action Network (KESAN), a group member of KPSN, that the KESAN review has failed to understand properly and to open further dialogues between KESAN and JICA for the benefit of the Karen people and other ethnic minorities.