Sheila Htoo, Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change, York University
This paper asserts that the Salween Peace Park is an embodiment of positive peace that Indigenous Karen people have envisioned and mobilized through conservation. This positive, lasting, and everyday peace that Karen people and leaders in the Salween Peace Park are working toward goes beyond the absence of war, fighting, and conflicts in their homeland. Rather, it entails justice that guarantees fundamental freedoms, equality, and rights to self-determination for Karen people as a nation. Positive peace as “presence of justice” fundamentally addresses the root causes of longstanding conflicts in the country and guarantees the safety and opportunities for displaced people and refugees from Karen state to return and rebuild their livelihoods and cultures lost during conflicts and civil war. This paper details three core aspects of positive peace embodied in the Salween Peace Park: (1) the protection of Indigenous Karen land, territory, and resource governance system against widespread land and water grab and state territorialization; (2) the affirmation of Karen identity and position in the Mutraw district as peace builders in the changing political context of Burma/Myanmar’s ceasefire and peace-making process; and (3) the preservation of Karen cultural traditions and identity against an increasing threat of “Burmanization” and centralized state control over Karen autonomous territory and everyday life.
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