Thursday, December 31, 2009
Merry Christmas from here in Toungoo District, Northern Karen State, Burma! We are still up here as there is more Burma Army activity against the population. We spent the last three days watching the road while some of the team treated patients and did the Good Life Club Program (GLC). This part of Toungoo district is at the edge of the black zone and the brown zone- we are with the last IDPs before it becomes almost totally Burma Army controlled. Read more
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh, who dedicated the Susan Zubik Welcome Center in honor of his late mother, went out to meet the protesters, who spoke little or no English. Counting children, they included more than 30 ethnic Karens, who carried handwritten signs such as, "We demand a professional translator who speaks our language. Read more
Monday, November 23, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Saturday, October 24, 2009
During a Headquarters press conference today, Tomás Ojea Quintana described the findings and recommendations on a range of critical human rights issues in Myanmar. Mandated by the Human Rights Council, Special Rapporteurs are independent, but work under the auspices of the United Nations.
Mr. Quintana noted that his report to the Assembly’s Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) addressed the continued detention of Aung San Suu Kyi and other prisoners of conscience, fair trial and detention conditions, issues of free assembly and association, as well as situation of civilians affected by armed conflict in some areas of the country. (See Press Release GA/SHC/3957.) Read more
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
It was a rude post-midnight awakening for the DKBA soldiers of Brigade 999, but they quickly assembled a pursuit team.
And they struck out from Ta-ah Tah village, straight up into unforgiving terrain of the Dawna Mountain Range.
They had been hit by a KNLA strike deep behind the lines, a tactic favoured by Karen National Union Vice President David Thackrabaw, and they knew there would be hell to pay for destruction of such expensive machinery. Read More
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
New Delhi (Mizzima) – The Chairman of the Ethnic Nationalities Council in exile, a coalition of ethnic political organisations, on Monday made it abundantly clear that the Council’s position does not support the Burmese military junta’s 2010 elections plans.
The clarification by Khu Hte Bu Phe, Chairman of the ENC, came days after a letter sent in the name of the Council to US Senator James Webb, a strong advocate of engagement with the Burmese regime, before hosting of a Congressional hearing on Burma.
The letter, signed by the Secretary General of the ENC and dated September 28, explained to the US Senator of ENC’s position on the Burmese junta’s 2010 election plans saying, in principle the ethnics in Burma do not accept the 2008 constitution and the forthcoming 2010 elections. Read more
Oct 6, 2009 (DVB)–Burma’s elections next year are not a sign of progress towards democratization, according to a prominent ethnic opposition group who said that repression will continue beyond 2010. More
Monday, October 5, 2009
Leaders of KNU and Burmese democracy activists based in Mae Sot, Thailand are on the alert because of news that the DKBA is plotting to assassinate high ranking officials among them.
According to one of the KNU Leaders, who requested anonymity, since early September they received information that SPDC has assigned the DKBA to assassinate leaders of KNU and Pro Democracy groups.
The source said that DKBA sent 12 of it's agents to work together with Thai businessmen in planning the assassinations. The plan includes assassinating 4 top KNU leaders, 4 Federation of Trade Unions - Burma (FTUB) leaders and other Pro Democracy Leaders based in Thailand.
The source also mentioned that KNU Leaders and brigade & battalion commanders from other areas traveling back and forth to Thai border are also put on alert.
The above is a translation from a news article in Karen which appeared on Kwekalu
Monday, September 28, 2009
Burma's military rulers are up to their old tricks, trying again to hoodwink the West. Just before the United Nations General Assembly gets underway in New York this week, the regime announced the released more than 7,000 prisoners to try to deflect attention from them. Usually in this annual UN session Burma's human rights record and progress to democratic elections are thoroughly reviewed; a strong resolution demanding the release of all political prisoners, national reconciliation and the return to democracy is adopted by the international body. Read more
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
23 Sep 2009
The Burma Campaign UK is deeply concerned by reports it has received from Kachin and Karen State of a serious unknown disease which is particularly affecting children. Almost 2,000 people have contracted the illness so far, and symptoms in both states are similar. More
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
This report presents information on abuses in Nyaunglebin District for the period of April to July 2009. Though Nyaunglebin saw a reduction in SPDC activities during the first six months of 2009, patrols resumed in July. Since then, IDP villagers attempting to evade SPDC control report that they have subsequently been unable to regularly access farm fields or gardens, exacerbating cycles of food shortages set in motion by the northern Karen State offensive which began in 2006. Other villagers, from the only nominally controlled villages in the Nyaunglebin's eastern hills to SPDC-administered relocation sites in the west, meanwhile, report abuses including forced labour, conscription into government militia, travel restrictions and the torture of two village leaders for alleged contact with the KNLA.
Click the link to read more http://www.khrg.org/khrg2009/khrg09f15.html
At least 4,862 refugees from the Ler Per Her IDP camp and surrounding villages in Pa'an District remain at new arrival sites in Thailand. Though the fighting that precipitated the flight of many of these refugees in June has decreased, the area from which they fled continues to be unsafe for them to return. This bulletin provides updated information on landmine risks for refugees who may return, or who have already returned, including the maiming of a 13-year-old resident of the Oo Thu Hta new arrival site who returned to visit his village to tend livestock. Refugees face other threats to safe return as well, including widespread conscription as forced labourers, porters and "human minesweepers" by the SPDC and DKBA, as well as forced military recruitment by the DKBA and potential accusation and punishment as "insurgent supporters.
Ckick the link to read more http://www.khrg.org/khrg2009/khrg09b10.html
Answer: We are a typical Karen family who originally came from a village called Wai-may-ta in Tavoy Township. Due to oppressions and violence by the military, my family and villagers in that area had to flee to the jungles. We had to live in the jungle within Burma for 10 years before moving to the refugee camp on Thai soil. We have lived in the camp for 20 years before being resettled in this country.
In the Karen state, we saw death everyday. We lived as though we’re waiting for the day of our death, asking ourselves, “When will my turn come?” One after another our leaders and fellow villagers were killed and wounded. The repeated attacks by the Burma army made us run away and hide in fear like wild chickens. We had to live in fear all the time.
In the end, there wasn’t anywhere for us to escape within the country but to flee into Thailand and lived in camp for more than 20 years. Compare to our life in Burma, there was a little peace and goodness there. However, we’re not able to stand up as a people. Although we’re provided with food and shelter by the NGOs, there was no freedom of movement or expression which is the basic right of every human being. Life there was just like a human zoo as we’re surrounded by fences. We’re not allowed to go anywhere; we only had to eat food given to us. We couldn’t speak out about our sufferings and needs. We’re completely restricted by the Thai authorities. In 2005, the UNHCR arranged for us to resettle in a third country. There isn’t any hope at all for the future of our children at these camps; life there is basically dead.
Today, due to the arrangement by the UNHCR, we’ve had the chance to resettle here in this country, although we weren’t given any chance to choose which country we wanted to go to. We’re grateful to the government of this host country for resettling us and taking good care of us. However, one huge problem is the difference in language, weather and culture. It is very hard for us to adjust to life in this developed country, coming straight from the camps. Especially for older people, not able to speak and understand the language at all makes it hard for them to get jobs. Even those of us who are professionals back home, nurses like my husband and I can’t get employment in our field of work. Language is a major barrier for us to go through life here, and this makes us feel very discouraged. But, on the other hand our basic needs are well taken care of. Moreover, we’re able to live without fear, which we’ve always yearned for. No longer do we have to fear soldiers torching our villages and killing us. Our dream in this respect is fulfilled. We’re free to go anywhere we want, express our thoughts frankly, and look for jobs in freedom. There are opportunities for our young sons and daughters to get education hoping that they will be good and smart children. Adults like us can also acquire education. There’s no major hardship for us. These are my experiences I’ve gone through in my life.
Question: Could you tell us about young girls and women abused and raped by the Burmese soldiers?
Answer: I myself haven’t gone through this kind of violation. But I’ve learned about a few instances from my friends, and from those who have been violated. A friend, a nurse who worked together with me, told me about her friend who was a young virgin raped by Burmese soldiers while she was tending her cattle in a field far from her parents’ house. After being raped, she felt so defiled and ashamed to return home, and hid outside the village because all her clothing was ripped off. Her brother and her father had to take her some clothes and brought her back to the village. When she got home, she was too ashamed to show her face. She kept to her room and wanted to kill herself. I don’t know whether she killed herself or not, but my friend told me the girl didn’t want to live anymore and didn’t want to see anyone.
Another woman was a mother age 30 or so years old who was raped by soldiers when forced to go with them as porter. During daytime, she had to carry heavy loads, and at nighttime, she was raped by these soldiers. She got pregnant and after giving birth to that son she came to live in the refugee camp, the same camp I was in. I got to see her for a short time and spoke with her. But sadly, I couldn’t talk with her much as she would only laugh, talk to herself or cry. The atrocities she had experienced affected her mentally that she sometimes would cry and laugh, and she would neither sleep nor eat. Her mind was sorely distressed that she could no longer function as a normal human being. This was what I had witnessed myself back there.
Question: Now, there are Karens who had gone back to make peace with the Burmese military government. What are your views on this matter?
Answer: This is my personal view. From what I’ve seen from video clips and read in the news, among those who went back to make peace, some said that they could not fight or make sacrifices anymore. They have had enough of sufferings and so want to live in peace. That’s why they decided to make peace with the Burmese government believing that it could provide them with their own region to govern and live in peace. If in reality they can genuinely live in peace and the villagers could also do the same, I personally can accept. However, what follow after that makes it hard for me to accept what they have done at all. They say it’s for peace while there’s no peace at all for the Karen people. There is only peace for one particular group. The Burmese army just uses you to go back and kill your own people, bully them by forcefully collecting taxes, and conscript young men to fight as soldiers in DKBA and Burmese Army. These are atrocities committed against the people and I totally can’t accept what they do. If their particular group can live in real peace, which all Karens want, and live well themselves, this is fine by me. I’m not against it.
Once we’ve learned that the peace agreement was just a ploy by the enemy to kill and destroy the Karen people, and have seen the losses of our Karen people, territories and their being used by the Burmese Army to kill their own people, it makes me truly sad and hurt that I shed tears every now and then thinking about this. Our hearts are broken because of this divisiveness.
Question: Could you tell us what the Karen people who are resettled in third countries should do to help our people back home? How could they do it?
Answer: I’m sure those who now live in third countries, young people, adults, and leaders of the communities, would have their own ideas and suggestions. Personally, what I want is for all Karens to be united in working for the development and progress of ourselves and our people back home. But it is sad that we are divided in the love and concern for our people with differing mindset. My advice is for each individual to discard his/her narrow mindedness and be open minded to accept new ideas that would be of benefit to our people. We need to have foresight. Now that we are in the third country, we have absolute freedom to do anything that are within the law of that country, for the development of our people as a whole or as an individual, as well as for the development of the country we now live in.
Of course, there are many of us who have gone through bad, bitter and heartbreaking experiences, for instance, caused by differences in religions, discrimination between Pwo and Sgaw, etc. These are very ugly conflicts that shouldn’t have happened at all. I am Christian but my great-grandfather was a Buddhist monk. Both religions teach us not to kill or destroy each other or anyone. This divisiveness is the result of some religious narrow mindedness and immature conviction. This divisive factor is a big hindrance in our working together. This shortcoming has given the enemy leverage to divide us. In fact, it is the few people’s weaknesses that have brought us against one another. This weakness has opened the way for the enemy to use it as a weapon to divide us.
Therefore, what I want to ask the Karen people to do is change their mindset and attitude by elevating them to a new and higher level. We must begin this first as an individual, and then gradually move on to family, community and nation as a whole. Don’t let our outdated narrow-mindedness hinder our effort to work together for the progress of the Karens but let us be united in love and make good use of the freedom we enjoy in whichever third country we live in by working together with one mind.
Question: What advice would you like to give to our young Karen people?
Answer: I’d like to tell you about a family who are my close friends. Whenever they are asked the reason why they have come to a third country, the father’s answer is
“For my children’s education and future”. This is the dream of all parents who are already in the third countries and those who have sent their children here. We are here with the hope that our children will seek education, set high goals and raise their standard of living, and eventually be of benefit to our people when they are well-equipped to do so in the days to come. Like other people the world over, the young generations are considered as future adults and leaders. They are our hope and strength. That’s why we need you, my dear young people. Now that you get this opportunity to live in the new country, use it to the best of your ability; take what is good from the country you live in, pursue education to upgrade your life. My children, don’t let the freedom you enjoy here destroy your character and your culture because there are many things that can be destructive to your health, your progress and life, and even the name and reputation of our people. Therefore, take what is good from the culture of the new country, and ignore and avoid whatever that would destroy your life.
You are our hope and strength for the advancement of our people. You are our future elders and leaders. Our people look up to you. They place their hope and trust in you. Pursue education and try to gain knowledge as much as you can. Use this chance and the education the new country gives you to help yourself and your people. Whenever you have the opportunity let other people know about the Karen people without any restrictions. Be proud of who you are and where you came from. Take pride in your culture and language, making sure to maintain them for future generations that will grow up in the new countries. Don’t be ashamed of being a Karen. Don’t forget your heritage. Thank you.
Monday, September 21, 2009
The Karen Cultural event was held in London on 19th September 2009 by the Karen Community Association – UK , celebrating Karen Culture. The event was held in the St Ethelberga’s Peace and Reconciliation Centre, featuring traditional food, dancing, singing and a fashion show. There were also speeches and presentations on Karen culture. More than a hundred guests came to support this event.
“This event is to educate people in the UK about our culture, and to make sure Karen people in the UK don’t lose their culture, especially younger generations,” said May Pearl Tun, one of the speakers at the event. “It will be the biggest Karen cultural event we have ever organised in the UK .”
More than 400 Karen people live in the UK , most have come to the UK as part of United Nations resettlement programme.
As well as cultural events, the Karen Community Association UK campaigns for human rights and democracy in Burma , helps the Karen community, and raises funds for refugees and internally displaced people.
This Karen Cultural Event was sponsored by the Phan Foundation & Karen National Union – UK .
Monday, September 14, 2009
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Karen State, Burma
26 August, 2009 - Click the link to read more;
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Dear Secretary Clinton:
We write to you again about the human rights and political situation in Burma and the current US policy review. We believe it is important for the US government to conclude the policy review you announced in February so that American policy and strategy towards Burma will be clear to all concerned. We also believe that as intractable as the situation in Burma may seem, the United States does have options that could have a positive impact on the human rights and political situation in Burma. More
Friday, September 11, 2009
Aug 14, 2009 ... (New York) - Burmese army attacks against ethnic Shan civilians in northeastern ... Stay Informed » Get action alerts, breaking news and updates .... forced some 5000 ethnic Karen across the border into Thailand in June. ...www.hrw.org/.../news/.../burma-army-attacks-displace-thousands-civilians Read more...
Thursday, September 10, 2009
It may be spread thinly, but the KNLA soldiers on
Writer: By Phil Thornton
Published: 6/09/2009 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: Spectrum
General Mu Tu is angry. He's angry at the Burmese military regime for attacking thousands of unarmed Karen villagers and forcing them to take refuge in jungle hideouts. He's angry with media pundits and academics for deciding the Karen are a spent force and their struggle dead. And he's angry with the international community for not doing more to free Burma's 2,100 political prisoners and to stop the displacement of hundreds of thousands of ethnic people.
Gen Mu Tu waves a newspaper clipping and says: "The international community needs to send its 'experts' to come and investigate displacements in Karen State instead of relying on what some academics and journalists write. I don't know where they get their information - it's not from going inside, and it's certainly not from us."
Gen Mu Tu is the leader of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA). He looks more like the grandfather he is than the leader of the largest resistance force fighting the Burmese military regime. But looks can deceive. We met in a safe house on the Thai-Burma border where he discussed how the KNLA has had to adapt its battle plans to match its loss of territory and inability to renew its weaponry.
In June, 1,300 government troops attacked Ler Per Her displacement camp, situated on the Burmese side of the River Moei. Thai authorities say more than 4,000 Karen villagers living in the camp and in the surrounding area sought safety in Thailand. Before Burmese soldiers left Ler Per Her, they booby-trapped and land-mined walkways; waterholes, rice stores, schoolyards and homes, making the old village uninhabitable.
Gen Mu Tu says the regime uses its soldiers and its militia gangs to force hundreds of thousands of Karen villagers from their homes in an attempt to bring them and their land under its control.
The regime argues that it is a result of the conflict with the KNLA that so many civilians are displaced. It is an argument that Professor Desmond Ball from the Australian National University Defence and Strategic Studies Centre disputes.
DEFIANT: Gen Mu Tu holds the KNLA flag.
"These attacks are against civilians, not Karen soldiers. The Burmese military have a total disregard for international law. The Karen army is a fraction of the size of the Burmese army, and can offer little in the way of resistance. Most of its work is spent moving people out of harm's way."
Gen Mu Tu says the Burmese army has a third of its forces based in Eastern Burma, and blames displacement on the Burmese army occupation and militarisation of ethnic land.
"We have 5,000 fighting men, they have about 180,000 soldiers in Eastern Burma. They retaliate against villagers if we take action. As a military man I want a fair fight, arms against arms, but what the regime does to our people is not fair. They are using their army against unarmed civilians."
Gen Mu Tu is keen to explain the Karen's first priority is to try to find a peaceful solution.
"Burma is a political problem. We want peace and we want equality. All we want is to live as free people. We don't want to take up arms, but we have to resist if we are to defend our people."
Gen Mu Tu says the regime has told the Karen they can have peace if they give up their arms, an offer Gen Mu Tu forcibly declines.
"They want us to give up our weapons; that's surrender, not peace. If we return to their so-called 'legal fold' our situation will be more critical than it is now. Now we have weapons and they still do this to our people. Image what they'd do if we didn't have arms?"
PLANNING HIS NEXT MOVE:Gen Mu Tu studies a map.
Moe Kyaw, a Burmese army officer who deserted, says the regime does not want peace with the Karen.
"The Karen is the only armed group that we are worried about, but we planned to split and weaken them. The aim is to use the ceasefire groups against the ethnic organisations. We know most of the Karen [people] support the KNLA, they have won the hearts of their people."
While Moe Kyaw may have a grudging admiration for the KNLA, he only has harsh words for the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA).
"We knew that only their top level officers [of the DKBA] were with us. They're like gangsters out for their own gain. We disliked the DKBA. We don't respect them. Why would we? They are traitors to their own people. If they are willing to destroy their own people, how could we trust them?"
The general says the Burmese military regime is intent on destroying Karen culture and their way of life.
"The Burmese army burns our schools, cuts down 60-year-old orchards and plantations, poisons our waterways and mines farmland. Is this is the work of people who want peace?"
The Thai Burma Border Consortium (TBBC), in its latest report, Displacement and International Law In Eastern Burma, estimates "that more than 3,200 settlements were destroyed, forcibly relocated or otherwise abandoned in Eastern Burma between 1996 and 2007".
Between 2006 and 2007, the Burmese army burned down villages, laid landmines and drove more than 76,000 villagers from their homes into jungle hideouts. Many more made the arduous journey to makeshift camps on the edges of the Thai-Burma border.
DRIVEN FROM HOME: Naw Haynaytha in tears.
Naw Haynaytha was one who survived the long journey to Ei Tu Hta camp on the Burmese side of the Salween River. She said at the time that she left because soldiers smashed her home and destroyed her land.
"We grew fruit trees, mango, banana, jackfruit and betel nuts. We caused no harm, we're villagers. I don't know why they hate us, but they do.
"We stayed in our village, but still they kill us."
Naw Haynaytha, 30, has first-hand knowledge of the regime's military policy towards the Karen. She fled her village when the soldiers set up a base near her village.
"I just took the children and left. I'm afraid of them because they will kill me if they catch me. Every person they arrested is killed. They never come home."
Gen Mu Tu says stories like Naw Haynaytha's are the reason the KNLA continues to fight. He sips coffee and points to numerous pock-marks in the doors, walls and ceiling, and says they were caused by three separate unsuccessful grenade attacks on him.
"People need to understand we don't take our fight to their cities. We fight in Karen State to defend our people. Nothing more, nothing less."
The general says his army may have lost territory, and may be small, but he considers it deadly.
"Loss of territory is not important at the moment. We're still holding arms and we're prepared to fight. It's true they have taken our lands, but now we know where they are. They are visible and static. That suits us."
Mr Ball says there are not many armies better at guerilla warfare than the Karen. "Their soldiers are tough, they know how to walk for days, live off the land, they may have limited weapons, but they know how to fight."
Gen Mu Tu says he has been fighting since he was 16.
"Fighting is to kill, and we know how to kill. We're like shadows, hard to catch and we will kill specific targets - the officers and the soldiers who are hurting our people."
Major Ghu Thaw, who is second-in-command of a small KNLA battalion fighting the Burmese army two hours north of Mae Sot and two days walk into Karen State from a River Moei border crossing, confirms what Gen Mu Tu says.
"We're 60 against 320, we're low on ammunition, but we're not going head-to-head, we're picking our targets. We've just killed a platoon commander from their Infantry Brigade 81 and another commander from Light Infantry Brigade 205." Maj Ghu Thaw says the Burmese army has been raping and abusing people during the conflict.
STILL BEARING ARMS: The KNLA’s 7th brigade, left, is still a strong fighting force.
"Two Karen women, Naw Pay, 18 and eight months pregnant, and Naw Wah Lah, 17, were both raped and murdered by soldiers. The soldiers responsible were from Light Infantry Brigade 205, led by Lt Col Than Hteh and Capt Kyi Nyo Thant."
The Committee of Internally Displaced Karen People (CIDKP) confirmed the deaths and rapes.
Gen Mu Tu says the number of clashes over a six-month period between his men and the Burmese army supports his argument that the Karen are capable of killing the regime's soldiers.
According to statistics collected by the Karen National Union from Jan 1 to June 30 2009, the KNLA and Burmese army fought 532 times. The KNLA killed 341 Burmese soldiers and wounded another 697. The Burmese army killed five KNLA soldiers and wounded nine. The Karen killed 15 officers across the command spectrum - including a brigadier-general, company commanders, majors and captains.
"We want the regime to understand that Burma is a political issue. It cannot be solved on the battlefield. If they really want peace and if they are fair, this issue can be resolved around the political table. To negotiate is not to surrender."
Gen Mu Tu says the regime needs to take his words seriously.
"I want the regime to understand they cannot win, even if they do have the military might, because we can kill them. They have to understand the only way to solve this problem is by political means."
Mr Ball says factional splits have reduced the effectiveness of the armed resistance to the regime.
"It's in their own interests to help each other. If one falls, it will hurt them all. If they cooperate as the Karen and the Pa-O did in Shan State recently, they can be effective."
To outsiders, Burma is a difficult story to report. The regime has banned international journalists. It's hard to verify information. Getting access to isolated conflict zones or crimes scenes is almost impossible.
To better understand the rationale behind why Burmese soldiers did what they did to Karen villagers, a Burmese army defector, an officer, explains.
The ex-officer is neat, fit and had the chunky muscles of someone who still worked at keeping them hard.
Maung Aye (not his real name) had been a Burmese army officer for 25 years, 10 as a trainer, before defecting to Thailand. "We indoctrinate our troops, we give them a reason to fight the ethnic people. We tell them we're fighting to stop the country from disintegrating. The Karen is the enemy. We instill in them fear and hatred. We tell them if a young Karen grows up he will become a soldier and kill you, better to do it now to him."
Maung Aye talked about civilian deaths in-a-matter-of-fact-voice.
"Our strategy is to destroy the villages and forcibly relocate them. Put simply, if you drain the lake, the fish will die. Relocating villagers disrupts the guerrillas' capacity to fight, it ties up all their resources trying to get food, medicine and shelter for the thousands of displaced villagers. This is systematic, some villagers resist, so we do some killing to sap their morale and to cow them into submission."
Maung Aye's admission reveals a strategy so effective in is simplicity it is mind-boggling. Displace half-a-million people, force them into jungle hideouts without food, education or medical care and then let the opposition eat up their meagre resources trying to keep them alive.
Displacement is regarded as the by-product of armed conflict between the KNLA and the Burmese army, but as Maung Aye explained, it is - regardless of skirmishes with the Karen - the planned-for result.
And it works. Most international governments and NGOs will not deliver cross-border aid and health care to displaced people, often citing "we can't as it is does not fit our criteria or our mandate".
Maung Aye says there are some troops who he describes as "no-brain soldiers" who are only too happy to rape, plunder and kill.
"Commanders have to meet their objectives, and if they don't they know they will be punished by their superiors. So they legitimize this behavior and will never discipline soldiers for abuses."
In early June 2009, the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School launched its report, Crimes in Burma, at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand.
Writing in the report, Justice Richard J Goldstone, the first prosecutor at both the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda, and Patricia M Wald, a former Judge at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, petitioned the UN Security Council to act on Burma.
"We call on the UN Security Council urgently to establish a Commission of Inquiry to investigate and report on crimes against humanity and war crimes in Burma. The world cannot wait while the military regime continues its atrocities against the people of Burma."
When Manerplaw was overrun by the Burmese Army there was much speculation about what it meant about the future of the KNU. Many observers predicted the end of the KNU, and the end of our struggle for liberty.
For myself, as a 14 year old child who had been born and brought up in Manerplaw, it seemed like the end of the world. It was a personal disaster for all of us who had been forced to flee for our lives, and seemed like a major disaster for Karen people and our struggle for freedom. I feared for the future, but there was no surrender. The struggle continued.
The recent media articles and comments about the fall of the 7th Brigade headquarters are very similar to what was written 14 years ago. Once again observers are predicting the imminent end of our struggle, and the demise of the KNU. Once again, they are wrong.
Predictions of the end of our struggle are nothing new. They were also made when we were forced out of Insein in 1949.
On 27th February 1950 Ne Win told a New York Times (an American newspaper) journalist that victory over the ‘insurgents’ would be completed by May that year. Fifty-nine years later he is no longer alive, but our struggle continues, we have not been defeated.
When we lost Toungoo, our first headquarters, in 1950, and when many of our soldiers were forced out of the Delta in the same year, again we were told the days of our struggle were coming to an end. The predictions were wrong then as well.
After 60 years of struggle, why do we keep fighting? Because as the slogan in Manerplaw said, we have a choice of freedom or death.
But it cannot be denied that the loss of 7th Brigade headquarters is serious. It has humanitarian, political, military and financial impacts. It is likely that the military attacks by the Burmese Army, and their DKBA allies, will continue. We are outnumbered and outgunned. The brave men and women of the KNLA and KNDO continue to risk their lives and suffer hardships to protect our people. We don’t have the people or resources to force the Burmese Army out of Kawthoolei, and thousands of us have been forced to flee thousands of miles from home. But there are other battle grounds we can and must fight on, and those of us in exile have the opportunity, and responsibility, to do so.
In 1950 Saw Ba U Gyi, founder of the KNU, was killed in an ambush by the Burmese Army. But he was not on a military mission at the time. He was on his way to Thailand. He wanted to go to Bangkok, where many journalists and diplomats were based, and make sure the whole world knew about our struggle. He understood that we needed international pressure as well as fighting and organising to defend our people.
Fifty-nine years later we must follow in the footsteps of Saw Ba U Gyi. We must follow the strategy he did not live to implement. We must mobilise the international community to take action.
Under the leadership of Naw Zipporah Sein we have seen the KNU increase its international advocacy. Statements responding to new events have raised the profile of the KNU, and ensured our voice, and the truth about what is happening to our people, is reported in media and reaches governments and the United Nations.
The resettlement programme means that Karen people now have a new army. Perhaps as many as 40,000 Karen are now in western countries. This army must fight on the battleground of the international community. We must raise awareness and lobby governments and the United Nations to take action. Our voice can now reaches places and people that they never could from the Delta, from the mountains of Kawthoolei, and from the camps on the border.
Earlier this month Karen from across Europe came together to form the European Karen Network. Karen people are organising in the USA, Canada and Australia.
We know that advocacy can make a difference. In Britain, thanks to campaigning, the government has increased funding to refugees, and has started to fund the Mae Tao Clinic. The British government has also raised the situation in Eastern Burma at the United Nations Security Council, and recently the European Union made its first ever public statement about attacks on the Karen. Much more needs to be done, but these are important first steps.
We would all rather be back home in a free and democratic Burma, when we can freely be Karen without fear of death or persecution. But as my father, Padoh Mahn Sha Lah Phan, said, freedom won’t be given to us. We will have to work for it. We must keep working for it even if we are thousands of miles from home, and perhaps we have even more responsibility to do so than when we were in Burma or on the border. We have more freedom and opportunities now.
Let’s build a new army for Saw Ba U Gyi, thousands of Karen around the world forcing the international community to take notice, and take action. Wherever we are, we will continue the struggle. We will never surrender. The Karen will be free.
Published in www.kwekalu.net (Karen Language) August 2009
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Abuse in Pa'an District, Insecurity in Thailand: The dilemma for new refugees in Tha Song Yang
This report presents information on abuses in eastern Pa'an District, where joint SPDC/DKBA forces continue to subject villagers to exploitative abuse and attempt to consolidate control of territory around recently taken KNLA positions near the Ler Per Her IDP camp. Abuses documented in this report include forced labour, conscription of porters and human minesweepers as well as the summary execution of a village headman. The report also provides an update on the situation for newly arrived refugees in Thailand's Tha Song Yang District, where at least 4,862 people from the Ler Per Her area have sought refuge; some have been there since June 2nd 2009, others arrived later. This report presents new information for the period of June to August 2009.
To view the field report click here
Monday, September 7, 2009
Click here to listen to Timothy's message
God wouldn’t want His people to be the cause for discord among their own people. Jesus, when he was crucified on the cross, even prayed for those who tortured and killed Him instead of saying bad things about them. Did Timothy lead that kind of life to be called a man of God? When he was not elected to the KNU Central Committee at the KNU 13th congress he was furious and made unjustifiable personal attacks on the leadership of KNU. God wouldn’t want any individual to take vengeance on others for not fulfilling his wishes, instead God would want His people to forgive, even their enemies.
He also talked about striving to achieve peace with the adversary when all the time he was sowing disunity among his own people.Did he even achieve genuine peace for his people, the Karens? In February 2009 when the UN Human Rights Rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana traveled to Karen State Timothy made a statement to Quintana claiming that the war was over and peace has been achieved. He urged the UN, which he called useless in his message at Pryor Creek Community Church, and the international community to work with KNU/KNLA Peace Council and the Burmese generals to close down all refugee camps in Thailand and send back the refugees to Burma. Little did he realize (or was he ignoring?) that while he was making that false statement, crimes against Humanity by the SPDC was going on full speed in Eastern Burma in the Karen State. Click the link below to see the report compiled by KHRG.
And now a Major General in KNU/KNLA Peace Council, he will keep on lying as long as there are people who will listen to his smooth talking and believe without finding out the truth for themselves. As long as there are groups supporting him and believing him one sided without hearing out the majority of the Karens, he will continue to deceive them with his rhetoric.
Now he is even going ahead with plans to have talks with the Thai authorities for the closure of refugee camps, sending his people into the camps and threatening the refugees to go back to Burma. That is not the work by a man of God. Almost all the Karens, inside and outside of Burma, don’t approve of what he’s been doing politically all along.
A few years ago, a non political religious and human rights foreign organization terminated their working relation with Timothy and ATM (Asian Tribal Ministries) due to Timothy’s involvement with the KNU/KNLA Peace Council where he was the major catalyst for the Peace Council’s split from the main Karen resistance organization, the KNU and his relation with DKBA, another breakaway group of KNU and with SPDC, as well as serious concerns over accountability and transparency and possible misappropriation of funds.
The International Community should think twice and find out the reality before believing and supporting this kind of individual who claimed to be a man of God and then changed to be a politician and an army officer.
Friday, August 21, 2009
Uncensored news from the heart of Burma is scarcely reported and this is a must watch for everyone who love the people of Burma . This news piece made me rethink of how I spend my life and how I use my resources.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Contact: Saw Joe Teeshara and/or Saw Hsa Htu Wah
Communication Department, KYO-Canada
Email: email@example.com, mailto:hsatu@hotmail.%20com
At the end of the conference, the most frequently asked question is “when and where the next Karen Youth Conference will be”. Three days of the Karen Youth conference may be short, but the Karen Youth who had attended the conference made the best of it by networking, sharing information, and socializing with each other.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
But there are many young Karens who know that education is the main ingredient in the development of a people.
The pictures below show volunteers doing field work teaching at temporary shelters for refugees displaced during June 2009 offensive on KNLA Brigade 7 in Pa-An District.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
It is learnt that the Karen Flag will be flying for 10 days from July 10 to July 20 at the Opera House of Orillia to commemorate the history and traditions of the Karen people who are the victims of ethnic cleansing in Burma.
Below is the speech delivered by Mahn Kyaw Swe, President of Karen Canadian Community at the event;
Good morning your honorable guests, Karen friends, and Canadian supporters!
First of all I would like to say thank you to Cathy and David from Project umbrella Burma for doing this public awareness event for the Karen people who are the victims of ethnic cleansing in Burma.
Today, we celebrate the Karen flag raising ceremony of Honor. A day set aside to commemorate the history and traditions of the Karen people of Burma. We can look back in our history at over 73 years. One day in 1936, during the British Rule of Burma, the Karen Central Organization decided to demand Karen National day, Karen National Anthem and Karen National flag from the Burmese government led by Dr. Ba Maw. In order to achieve those demand a group of Karen members and the House of Representatives requested to local Karens to design Karen national flag. Initially, 100 flags were chosen from all different regions of Burma. Then 12 flags were selected out of 100, then 3 of them were chosen. Finally, they picked the Karen National Flag we have been using until today. The Karen flag includes a drum, a rising sun with 9 rays and the colors of white, red and blue.
The red represents bravery, and the white represents simple life of Karen people and the blue represents loyalty to their ruler or the government. The rising sun represents social development of Karen people and 9 rays represent 9 rivers, those were used when Karen people came from Mongolia to the Burma. The drum is a symbol of Karen culture and tradition.
In 1938 Karen National Flag, Karen New Year Day together with Karen National Anthem were recognized by British government and allowed to raise the flag on Karen New Year day. Forever since entire Karen population considers national flag as a sacred symbol. Starting from the first Karen New Year Day celebrated in 1938 Karen flag is raised every Karen New Year Day celebration which is a special event in Burma.
In March 1997, during a televised surrender ceremony with a battalion of Karen freedom fighters, General Maung Aye from Burmese Army, the Chief of staff laid down Karen national flag on the ground and stepped under foot. All Karen people were considered it was very humiliating an insult to entire people and outraged. In another event, Brigadier General Maung Hla of Burmese Army said that one day the Karens would only be seen in the museum. Those incidents proved that the clear message of the Burmese military regime’s seriousness about ethnic cleansing campaign against Karens and other ethnic minority of Burma.
Very recently, at the beginning of June 2009, the Burmese regime started another military offensive against Karen resistant using its proxy group of Karen Democratic Army. In this latest military campaign, the innocent villagers mostly women and children were targeted and forced to flee their homes and villages. For the result, over 6000 Karen civilians had to flee to Thailand and living in newly established refugee camps camp.
However, Karen people still survive inside Burma, or in refugee camps in Thailand, in Canada, in Australia, or in the United States of America because of those people like Cathy and David who protect, who care and serve victims of ethnic cleansing. We not only Karen people who could come to Orillia, but also Karens people from around the world are so proud to present at Orillia to see raising Karen National Flag. We thank you for doing this special event.
Today July 10th 2009
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
One of Pado Mahn Sha’s alleged killers has met the same fate.
Former Karen National Union general secretary Pado Mahn Sha was assassinated on Valentine’s Day 2008 at his home in Mae Sot.
But who killed Colonel San Pyone, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army’s commander of Battalion Seven under Brigade 999?
The Colonel, for whom arrest warrants had been issued by a Thai Criminal Court for his alleged part in Mahn Sha’s death, was shot to death on June 26 by parties unknown.
He was traveling in a military flotilla of seven boats.
Six soldiers were killed and 20 injured in the attack, which was apparently launched from both sides of the Moei River.
The prime suspects, of course, would be gunmen of the KNU.
But KNU vice president David Thackrabaw said the KNU’s armed wing, the Karen National Liberation Army, was not active in the area.
The attack occurred in KNLA Seventh Brigade region, an area recently ceded to the Burma Army and the DKBA.
Brigade 999 has a fearsome reputation among Karen villagers for forced recruitment, brutal treatment of its recruits and a murderous approach to the local populace.
But if the KNU did not kill San Pyone, then who did?
There is no motivation for the Thai Army to act in such a manner.
Some observers have suggested the Burma Army might have been behind the killing, citing a perceived need for the DKBA’s overseer to keep rogue commanders of its slave militia in line.
With the DKBA’s transformation into a border security force, senior military commanders will become increasingly irrelevant.
Subject: KNU STATEMENT REGARDING CASE OF GEN. MAUNG AYE AND GROUP STEPPING UNDERFOOT THE KAREN NATIONAL FLAG
O F F I C E O F T H E S U P R E M E H E A D Q U A R T E R S
K A R E N N A T I O N A L U N I O N
K A W T H O O L E I
KNU Statement regarding the Case of Gen. Maung Aye and Group Stepping Underfoot the Karan National Flag
At the surrender ceremony of the 16th Bn. Commander of the KNU, Thumu Heh, in Kuaikdon, the SLORC Gen. Maung Aye:
1. Made Thumu Heh to kneel in front of SLORC leaders and apologise for his past mistakes,
2. Step underfoot the Karen national flag laid down on the ground.
It is not something unusual for Thumu Heh, who had surrendered to the fascist military dictatorship of the SLORC, to perform the humiliating rite. We are certain that he will be further humiliated by the SLORC in the future.
However, the stepping underfoot of the Karen national which is held as a sacred symbol by the entire Karen people, by SLORC Gen. Maung Aye and his entourage, in public, demonstrates the vileness and the true nature of the SLORC. This incident also proves
beyond all doubt that the SLORC;
(1) Regards the entire Karen people as its enemy;
(2) Regards all the oppressed nationalities as its enemy, as it does towards the Karen people,
(3) Has no intention to resolve the political problems of the country by peaceful means and that it is politically bankrupt.
Dear Karen Resistance Fighters and the Entire Karen People,
We, the KNU, have held four rounds of talks with the SLORC, with the intention of resolving political problems by peaceful means and bearing in mind the basic and just interest of the Karen people as well as the interest of the entire people of the country. In the talks, the KNU had proposed for a cease-fire and resolution of political problems, that had been the underlying causes of the civil war and instability through dialogue. However the SLORC just heinously demanded the KNU to return to the legal fold or, in other words, to submit to its fascist domination. Without formally replying the KNU's request for the 5th round of talks, the SLORC unilaterally abrogated the dialogue process and wickedly launched a large-scale military offensive against the KNU and the karen people. As usual, the SLORC troops perpetrate, daily, atrocities against Karen civilians, such as arbitrary arrest, torture, execution, rape of women, forced labour, burning down villages and etc.., at a higher rate, in the offensive. Now, to crown their wanton acts, the SLORC leaders publicly step underfoot the Karen national flag which is held in high respect by the entire Karen people. Therefore, we, the KNU call upon the entire Karen people:
(1) To resolutely oppose and fight until the annihilation of the SLORC military dictatorship, bearing in mind the exhortation "for the Karen people, surrender is out of the question," made by our heroic leader Saw Ba U Gyi;
(2) To unite absolutely, without discrimination as to dialects, religious creeds, regions or ideological differences;
(3) To continue the struggle for freedom and democracy by joining hands with all the anti-SLORC forces.
* Domination of the fascist SLORC must fall!
* The Just Resistance of the Karen People Shall triumph!
Central Executive Committee
March 3, 1997
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
The Junta of Burmese military dictators denied EU calls for ceasefire and said that they were not involved in fighting against the KNU.
They stated that it was only Karen (KNU) and Karen (DKBA) fighting against each other.
Now they have hoisted Burmese flag on 27th June, 2009 at 3:16 pm local time.
Isn’t this proof enough that Burmese-SPDC was the main enemy and behind all these attacks?
Contributed by a Karen.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
The report said that Hsan Pyote aka San Pyone, an officer of DKBA was killed and about 4 DKBA soldiers were injured. The exact number killed and injured could not be confirmed.
The shootings reportedly came from the Thai side and the DKBA blamed the KNU for the ambush. The KNU however denied saying that no KNLA troops were operating in that area at that time.
Hsan Pyote was one of the masterminds in arranging the assassination of the Karen National Union General Secretary P’Dho Mahn Sha La Phan in February 2008.
There were altogether 10 boats but only 2 reached their destination and the DKBA troops were on their way back after taking Brigade 7 of the KNLA. Maw Kala Kin, where the ambush took place, is the base where Htain Maung’s Peace Council, which split from the KNU, settled after it’s peace agreement with SPDC.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
The Burma Campaign UK today called on the government of Thailand to stop forcing Karen families who have fled a new military offensive back into Burma.
According to Burma Campaign UK sources, 3 Karen families have been forced back into Burma, and others are being placed under pressure to return.
Up to 6,000 Karen have fled a new military offensive by the Burmese Army and its allies, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army. Most have fled to Thailand, and Thai authorities have been helping the refugees. However, now that there is less fighting in some places, Thai authorities apparently want the refugees to return to Burma.
“It is not just a question of whether or not there is gunfire and mortar bombs,” said Zoya Phan, International Coordinator at Burma Campaign UK. “The area that these people lived in is now under the control of the dictatorship, and any Karen returning will face the danger of severe human rights abuses. Only a week ago two teenage girls were raped and killed, one of them was eight months pregnant. Thailand must give the refugees sanctuary.”
More than 110,000 refugees are in refugee camps on the Thailand Burma border.
The Burma Campaign UK is calling on governments and the United Nations to put pressure on the dictatorship to end its military attacks in Eastern Burma, which have forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes. The Security Council discusses the protection of civilians in armed conflict when it meets on Thursday 26th June.
Time and time again, the plight of the Karens in Burma have been ignored and neglected. While the joint forces of SPDC and DKBA (Democratic Karen Buddhist Army) are intensifying their offensive on the headquarters of Brigade 7 of the Karen National Liberation Army, the international community is highlighting only the imprisonment and trial of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her 64th birthday. On June 4 in its statement, The KHRG (Karen Human Rights Group) reminded The International Community not to neglect rural Burma in calling for Suu Kyi’s release.
It is true that Suu Kyi’s house arrest and her present trial are unjust. This indicates the generals’ insult and disrespect for the people of Burma. The aspiration of the majority of civilians in Burma is to see democracy and freedom prevail and it surely needs redress. However, dealing with the problems in Burma does not lie solely on the release of Suu Kyi and all political prisoners. US Senator Mitch McConnell made a statement on Suu Kyi’s 64th birthday saying that the best birthday present Suu Kyi can get for her birthday will be for the SPDC to free all political prisoners showing some good will. This statement is welcomed by all the people of Burma and those who wish to see democracy in Burma. However, we should not forget the ethnic minorities which made up nearly one-third of the population who are suffering without international recognition. Without addressing the plight of these minorities, Burma cannot obtain peace and prosperity through the process on national reconciliation.
Since the beginning of June, the troops comprising SPDC and DKBA launched fierce attacks on IDP (Internally Displaced People) villages in order to take the KNLA’s Brigade 7 headquarters. More than 4000 villagers, the majority of them animist and Buddhist farmers, have fled to Thailand. Many of the fleeing villagers had been working hard on their farms waiting to enjoy their fruits of labor but they had to leave everything behind. They had to flee, leaving all their hard work and livestock behind. Among these villagers are mothers with young babies, some only days old, in torn and ragged clothing. For the children, their school year has just started but all their learning materials were left behind. When the DKBA troops occupied their villages, they burnt down all the buildings including village schools and hospitals. These atrocities have been going on for so many years; not just today.
The curious questions here are why is The International Community so quiet about this matter? Why doesn’t the UN Security Council do anything about this situation? Why is the US Government, champion for democracy, human rights and dignity, still isn’t saying anything? Why doesn’t ASEAN have the courage to rebuke these generals? Don’t they see what is going on? Are they just turning a blind eye to what the dictators are doing in spite of the call for a tri-partite talk from the oppositions? When the internal conflicts of a country cannot be solved by the people themselves who are so helpless, will the world just leave them to their fate and ignore them? When will we get responses to these questions and witness actions taken?
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Burmese military attacks its people in order to secure power in 2010
The State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) and Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) attacked the Karen National Liberated Army Brigade 7 since the beginning of June. This has forced about 3,500 villagers to abandon their villages and flee for their lives in Thailand.
"The villagers were terrified from escaping for their lives. It is heartbreaking to see pregnant women and new born babies in this heavy rainy time struggling."Naw Hsa Moo , Karen Student Network Group Secretary.
The Karen CBOs call on the SPDC/DKBA to immediately cease the attacks in Pa-an district, withdraw their troops and let the villagers return to their villages to live a normal life.
We request the international community to continue to provide humanitarian assistance to those recently displaced to Thailand and to support Karen CBOs efforts in providing emergency needs and to further support community development to those displaced civilians in Karen State.
We strongly urge the SPDC to stop all offensives in the border areas of Burma and to invite the Karen National Union to discuss the end to civil war in Karen State. We urge the SPDC to release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners, and to hold open tripartite dialogue with democratic forces and ethnic representatives.
The offensive is one of the indicators of how desperately the SPDC wants their 2010 election plan to have their desired outcome. It is clear that the SPDC is using 2009 to shut down all possible opposition to their plan to ensure that their hold on power is ratified by their highly undemocratic election process next year.
The SPDC has instructed the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) and other ceasefire groups to secure the border by launching attacks against non ceasefire groups. The purpose of this offensive is to ensure control of the border, so that they can successfully carry out their sham elections in 2010. These groups have been given responsibility as border security guards.
Since the beginning of the rainy season this year, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC, Burma’s military regime) has been carrying out an offensive operation in Eastern Burma, which has led to massive displacement of Karen civilians to Thailand and within Eastern Burma. The offensive will lead to larger numbers of civilian deaths, and the displacement will increase the already high risk of all to landmine injuries, malaria, and maternal and infant death. The people of Eastern Burma have been suffering under one of the most brutal military regime for many years. This offensive is endangering the lives of thousands.
The Karen CBOs compose of ; Karen Youth Organization, Karen Student Network Group, Karen Woman Organization, Karen University Student Group, Backpack Health Worker Team, Federation of Trade Union Kawthoolei, Karen Education Department, Karen Health and Welfare Department, Karen Information Centre, Committee for Internally Displaced Karen People, Karen area Burma Issues, Karen Environmental Group, Karen Volunteer Service. Along the Thai Burma Border and is leading the effort to provide humanitarian needs to the newly arrived families in Thailand fleeing from these attacks.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Email: kwocentral@tttmaxne t.com
Website: www.karenwomen. org <http://www.karenwom en.org>
Karen Women’s Organization calls for increased international pressure to end SPDC military Offensives.
16th, June 2009
The Karen Women’s Organization is gravely concerned at the renewed displacement and suffering of civilians caused by the Burmese regime’s latest military offensive in Pa-An District of Karen State, and calls for increased international pressure to bring an immediate end to the fighting.
Since June 2, 2009, troops from five battalions of the regime, the State Peace Development Council (SPDC) and three battalions of the Democratic Buddhist Karen Army (DKBA) have been shelling and attacking villages close to the Thai border. This has caused almost 4,000 villagers from 20 villages, mostly women and children, to flee to Thailand.
Among the Karen refugees, over 800 are children under thirteen years old, including over twenty breastfeeding babies. There are also 20 pregnant women. The KWO is deeply concerned for the health and welfare of these vulnerable populations, particularly during the onset of the rainy season.“People have fled with frighten and exhaustion said KWO spokesperson Blooming Night Zan. “I saw one mother struggling to care for her two-day-old baby. It made me so sad and angry with the SPDC and DKBA for carrying out these attacks.
”Time and again our people have been forcibly uprooted by such attacks of the military regime. This cycle of displacement and suffering must be brought to an end.
We therefore urgently appeal to foreign governments to use all means, including UN Security Council intervention, to pressure the SPDC to immediately stop this current offensive, withdraw all SPDC and DKBA troops from rural Karen areas, and impose a nationwide ceasefire. A tripartite dialogue process between the regime, the National League for Democracy and ethnic representatives, must be initiated to bring peace and democratic reform to Burma.
We also appeal to the Thai government to continue to provide protection to refugees fleeing from Burma and allow them entry into refugee camps.
KWO is a community-based organization of Karen women working in development and relief in the refugee camps on the Thai border and with IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) inside Burma. KWO aims to empower Karen women in all spheres of life, including education and general living standards, and to develop women's knowledge, and skills in politics and leadership.
The U.S Government and United Nations have remained silent about a new military offensive in Karen State, Burma, which has forced around 6,000 people to flee their homes.At the beginning of June the Burmese army and its allies, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) began a new attack in Karen State, Burma. Attacks on my people are nothing new, and sadly, neither is the silence from the UN.
For sixty years the Karen have been under attack by the central government. These attacks escalated when an even more brutal dictatorship took power in September 1988, following a pro-democracy uprising in which thousands were killed when troops opened fire. In the past 15 years more than 3,300 villages in Eastern Burma have been destroyed. Half a million are internally displaced, and almost 150,000 live in refugee camps on the Thailand Burma border. Tens of thousands of people have been used as slave labor by the Burmese army, many used as human minesweepers, forced to walk in front of army columns as they keep no record of where they lay mines. Rape is used as a weapon of war by the regime; women taken as slaves can expect to be raped by soldiers every night, even girls as young as five. Extortion, torture, mutilations- -the list of abuses goes on and on.
"Tens of thousands of people have been used as slave labor by the Burmese army, many used as human minesweepers, forced to walk in front of army columns as they keep no record of where they lay mines."
The dictatorship tries to justify its action by saying it is a counter-insurgency operation, and that the Karen are fighting for an independent state, and want to break up Burma. It simply isn't true. Karen people want a Federal Burma, we stopped campaigning for our own state as long ago as 1976. In a grand offensive in 2006, the Burmese army added days to their journey by avoiding bases of the Karen National Liberation Army on their way to attack defenseless villages. The United Nations has confirmed this, accusing the generals of breaching the Geneva Conventions.
Now thousands more of my people are fleeing for their lives. I know the fear, and the sadness of leaving everything you know behind, carrying just a few possessions, and not knowing if you will ever go home again. I went through the same thing when I was 14 and the Burmese Army attacked my village.
The fact that 14 years later the same thing is still going on, and nothing is being done to stop it, fills me with anger and despair.
Last week, the European Union broke the years of silence and called for an end to the attacks in Eastern Burma. I suppose half the battle is trying to get people to take notice of what is going on, but the lack of concrete action, and silence from the rest of the world, is still frustrating.
The time for a global arms embargo against Burma is long overdue. There should also be a UN commission of inquiry into the crimes against humanity being committed in Eastern Burma. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon must also demand an immediate ceasefire when he visits Burma in July.
When I arrived in Thailand as a refugee I thought the international community would come to our aid and stop the attacks on our people. I was wrong. I know the new refugees in Thailand will be thinking the same thing. I hope that this time, they won't be wrong.
Zoya Phan is international co-ordinator at Burma Campaign UK. Her autobiography Little Daughter: A Memoir of Survival in Burma and the West, has been published in the UK and Canada. It will be published in April as 'Undaunted' in the USA .
http://www.guernica mag.com/blog/ 1077/zoya_ phan_my_people_ still_on_ t/
Emergency Release 001/09
June 12th, 2009
At the beginning of June the Burmese Army and DKBA began a new military offensive in Karen State, Burma. The Burmese Army offers the DKBA lucrative border trade deals to carry out attacks on its behalf before the 2010 general election. Since this new military operation, Burma Army and DKBA troops committed series of human rights violations. Innocent civilians were taken from their homes and forced to carry weapons and army equipment for Burmese Army and DKBA and have not been given food, clothing or shelter at night.
According to the last updated news, approximately six thousands Karen villagers in the operation areas were forced to flee. Those who crossed the border into Thailand have been facing shortage of food, medical aid, shelter, and many villagers, especially children and the elderly have become ill. Some mortars and rocket-propelled grenades fired by the Burmese Army have landed in Thai soil. This poses an immediate threat to Thai civilians who live along the border area and is another reason why for international concern and intervention.
More than a million Karen people have been forced from their homes and became displaced after decades of attacks targeting innocent civilians as the part of SPDC’s ethnic cleansing campaign. The SPDC is deliberately targeting civilians, which is a war crime, or crime against humanity. Spreading hot bed of killer diseases to neighboring countries became serious issues in the region. Now and again, a new wave of Karen refugees, mostly women and children have to leave their home by forced in this current crisis.
Burma is not a simple internal problem anymore, but become a threat to international peace and security, and became a major problem for neighboring countries. We, the Karen communities who have been forced to flee all across the world result of the military attacks against our villages and homes call on the international community to take serious action to end the crime against humanity being perpetrated by the SPDC regime.
Therefore, we the Karen communities worldwide call for the following demands:
• The United Nations Security Council to pass a binding resolution calling for animmediate end to military attacks, and imposing a global arms embargo against the SPDC, the Burmese regime.
• The United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights on Burma to visit the areas where attacks and human rights abuses are taking place and speak to the local Karen civilians in order to get the truth and first hand report about what is happening in Burma currently rather than just go to meet Burmese authorities.
• Burmese authorities to stop all military offensive and start meaningful national reconciliation plan, and let the United Nations Security Council get involved in solving all political, human rights and economic problems peacefully and permanently.
• Burmese and Thai authorities to let the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and NGOs to deliver emergency relief in the area of conflict zone without any restrictions to save the lives of Karen displaced people who were caught in between.
Media Contact Persons
1. Zoya Phan +44 207 324 4712 (UK)
2. Saw Steven Dun +206 295 8553 (USA)
3. Mahn Kyaw Shwe +;1 519 434 0139 (CANADA)
Monday, June 15, 2009
Bwa Bwa Phan, co-founder of Phan Foundation and elder daughter of the late General Secretary of the Karen National Union Padoh Mahn Sha, visited Philadelphia area during the weekend of June 13th 14th to introduce the Phan Foundation to the Karens in the US.
Phan Foundation was founded in the United Kingdom on 14th February 2008 by the four surviving children of Padoh Mahn Sha soon after his assassination carried out by agents of the brutal SPDC regime. Bwa Bwa met with some members of the Karen Communities from Philadelphia, Trenton, Lansdale, and Allentown in the area and explained about the inception of Phan Foundation and its aims and objectives. Phan Foundation is solely humanitarian aimed for the Karens regardless of religion and country of residence. The four main objectives of the Foundation are;
1. To alleviate poverty
2. To provide education
3. To promote human rights
4. To protect Karen culture.
Just within one year of it’s founding, the Foundation has presented $2000 dollars as the “2008 Padoh Mahn Sha Young Leader Award”, first of it’s kind, to Naw Paw K’Bla Htoo, a young community worker in Kler Lwee Htu (Nyaung Lay Bin) District in the Karen State. Naw Paw K’Bla Htoo was chosen because of her strong and longstanding commitment in her selflessness community work, her outstanding leadership and dedication in fighting poverty, promoting education, promoting development, and preserving Karen culture.
At present Phan Foundation is supporting IDP (Internally Displaced People) students from Mutraw District (Karen State) and expects to support many more with donations from well-wishers and friends.
To learn more about Phan Foundation or to make donations visit http://www.phanfoundation.org/
Donations by checks payable to Phan Foundation can be sent to:
28 Charles Square
London, N1 6HT