In September, WIN’s Kim Jolliffe traveled from the border to Bangkok to talk to representatives from eight European Union Governments, on ‘Internal Displacement in the Black Areas of Northern Karen State.’
Showing video and photographic examples of Burma Army operations and the devastation caused in one of the country’s most war-torn regions, he made a case for a need for more cross-border aid and understanding of the situation among all those reassessing Burma policy. While many have heard numerous statistics about the human rights situation in the region, few understand the continuing severity of the situation or of its implications on Burma’s development as a whole. Step-by-step explanations of the process as well as clear visual representation of the frequency of attacks on civilians were used at the talk to give a deeper understanding.
Some European governments and funders have begun to lean in favour of supporting legitimate aid and development groups working with the Burmese government’s permission, rather than those working on underground aid or civil education. While this shift has proved beneficial for many communities in non-conflict regions, the same approach cannot be applied to those in areas where rebel fighters are present, as civilians are attacked regularly, indiscriminate of age, sex or occupation.
Not only will people in these regions be unable to vote in the upcoming military-dominated elections, but the leaders that have supported them for decades will in most cases have never participated in Burma’s political discourse, making the incorporation of these people into the country a far-away prospect. For decades, the ruling regime has tried to achieve this process through a violent strategy of forceful assimilation aiming to destabilise entire communities while brutally subjugating ethnic minority groups and their claims to sovereignty. This has been attempted through regular destruction of houses, farms, schools and markets as well as attacks on individuals, using torture and rape.
It is important for all of those working on policy or allocating funding for aid to the Burma to understand the deeper factors effecting stability and the long-term risks politically if these populations continue to remain isolated and oppressed. Therefore, WIN has made advocacy at this level a top priority, and will continue to give the nation’s most oppressed war-affected communities the voice they need to stand up for their rights.