A Life in Hiding
covering burma and southeast asia
Tuesday, June 25, 2019


A Life in Hiding

By Yeni/Ler Per Her JULY, 2005 - VOLUME 13 NO.7


Karen Internally Displaced Persons wonder when they will be able to go home


Sitting in his new bamboo hut in Ler Per Her camp for Internally Displaced Persons, located on the bank of Thailand’s Moei River near the border with Burma, Phar The Tai—a skinny, tough-looking man of 60 who used to hide in the jungles and mountains of Burma’s eastern Karen State—waits for the time when he can return home.



“We are living in fear all the time,” he says about the lives of IDPs. His words reflect the general feeling among IDPs from Karen State, which has produced the largest number of displaced people in Burma.


Since 2002 at least 100,000 ethnic Karen have been displaced because of fighting between the Burmese army and the Karen National Liberation Army, and to avoid abuses at the hands of Rangoon soldiers. The livelihoods of these people have been undermined by the “systematic use of forced labor, restrictions placed on farmers’ access to their land and the confiscation of land and property,” according to the Norwegian Refugee Council.


At least 650,000 have been displaced along Burma’s eastern border—most are living in Karen, Karenni, Mon and Shan states—because of armed conflicts and human rights abuses such as forced labor and forced relocation by the Burmese army and its proxies. The majority of IDPs were the direct result of the Tatmadaw’s (armed forces) “four cuts” counter-insurgency strategy, which involves cutting off the ethnic rebels’ access to food, revenue from taxes, recruits and information, as numerous human rights groups have noted.


Ler Per Her is a jungle camp located about 100 kilometers north of the Thai border town Mae Sot. A group of 670 people, including many children, lives in fragile bamboo huts in this small Karen National Union-controlled area. The camp operates like a well-organized and stable village situated within the mountainous border region of eastern Karen State, and contains a clinic, school, church and a water system.


The camp’s clinic is a busy place, with patients registering for healthcare, having their blood tested, and receiving a host of other treaments. Children are particularly at risk in the camp. Malaria, pneumonia and serious gastrointestinal problems like diarrhoea and dysentery are common in the rainy season to those living in the deep monsoon forest. The largest aid group working with Burmese refugees, the Thailand Burma Border Consortium, has reported that child mortality and malnutrition rates among IDPs are double Burma’s national average.


Saw Eh Nge, a 42-year-old chief medic, worries that the children will suffer greater incidents of illness as the rainy season progresses.

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