Monday, September 28, 2009

Activists fling shoes at Burmese FM in New York - Mizzima

New Delhi (Mizzima) - Burmese activists in New York on Monday threw shoes at visiting Foreign Minister Nyan Win, an act of opposition against his representation of the Southeast Asian nation at the 64th United Nations General Assembly. Read more

Junta's military rulers play with the West - Bangkok Post

Releasing thousands from jail is only a ploy to gain some credibility

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

Patrols, movement restrictions and forced labour in Toungoo District - KHRG Field Report

This report documents the situation for villagers in Toungoo District, both in areas under SPDC control and in areas contested by the KNLA and home to villagers actively evading SDPC control. For villagers in the former, movement restrictions, forced labour and demands for material support continue unabated, and continue to undermine their attempts to address basic needs. Villagers in hiding, meanwhile, report that the threat of Burma Army patrols, though slightly reduced, remains sufficient to disrupt farming and undermine food security. This report includes incidents occurring from January to August 2009. Read more

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Serious Illness Hits Kachin and Karen Children-Burma Campaign - UK

Serious Illness Hits Kachin and Karen Children
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

Livelihood consequences of SPDC restrictions and patrols in Nyaunglebin District - KHRG Report

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.

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Security concerns for new refugees in Tha Song Yang - KHRG Report

September 22, 2009.
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.

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Interview with Thramu Htoo Ku on August 6, 2009

Question: Could you tell us about your life experiences as a refugee in the camp?

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?

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

Karen Cultural Event - London September 19, 2009

Karen Cultural Event - UK

Karen Cultural Event was held in London on 19th September 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

The pipeline to riches

13/09/2009 : The international community may finally have the information it needs to effectively prod the intransigent Burmese military regime to change its repressive ways - the specific offshore location of the regime's illicit multi-billion dollar natural gas revenues has been revealed...... click the link to read more

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Burma Army Troops Rape Karen Women

FBR REPORT: Burma Army Troops Rape Four Women as Abuses Continue Against Villagers in Northern Karen State
Karen State, Burma
26 August, 2009 - Click the link to read more;

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Letter to Secretary Clinton

Re: Burma Policy Review
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

Burma: Army Attacks

Burma: Army Attacks Displace Thousands of Civilians Human Rights ...
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. Read more...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

We're not a spent force, says Karen military leader - Bangkok Post.

News » Investigative Report

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."

Let's build a new army for Saw Ba U Gyi - By Zoya Phan

'Give me liberty or give me death’ read a sign at Manerplaw, which for many years was the headquarters of the Karen National Union (KNU). We have fight for our liberty, as if we don’t our people will continue to be killed, and our culture destroyed. If the dictatorship carries on like they are now there will be no Karen left in Burma. Faced with this choice, as Saw Ba U Gyi said, surrender is out of the question.

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 (Karen Language) August 2009

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Continued Atrocities - KHRG Report

September 8th, 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

Is he a credible person??

In his message at Pryor Creek Community Church in the US, Timothy Laklem claimed he was not a politician but a man of God.

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.