Author Archives: spcm88

Information collection and analysis for emergency aid to the warzone

Delivering healthcare to hundreds of thousands of displaced people in the hostile jungle is never easy. With continuous SPDC patrols looking for civilians to enslave or shoot-on-sight and continuous road developments to increase trade for military profit, the struggle and risk amounts to more than most could imagine, not just for the medics supplying healthcare but also for the patients, who often have to travel long distances risking their lives to receive medicine.

In order to monitor these issues and find sustainable solutions, WIN has helped community health workers develop a detailed information collection system to identify the most common hindrances to these people and ways to get around them. During the pilot phase, this survey has already covered hundreds of villagers, documenting the issues that stop them accessing healthcare.

This month 4 medics came out of the jungle to receive survey training so that they can pass their skills on to clinics across Karen State. By December this year, we plan to have documentation covering 4 key regions affected by war that can be used first and foremost to improve provision of healthcare but may also be able to help gain international support.

When people think of human rights, the most violent ones usually come to mind, but in fact the right to travel is a fundamental human right that few governments or cultures would argue was not crucial to living a stable peaceful life. While in Karen State, violence is also a horrible reality, the effects on the everyday lives of generations of Karen citizens gains little attention despite its severity. WIN is dedicated to enabling war victims in Burma to building stable living environments for their families so programmes like this are crucial to developing an understanding of what the real issues are that people face.

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WIN Facilitates UN-Focused Human Rights Training Programme


End of October 2010, WIN facilitated the training of Karen community health and relief workers for human rights documentation for the United Nations (UN). During the course, 10 Karen community workers leaned about the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism on Children’s Rights in Conflict.

Every time we talk to members of the Karen community about getting their message out to the world, they say they want to tell the UN, and rightly so. The United Nations has the power to enforce international cuts in communication, trade, military support and diplomatic relations to any government they feel is a threat to peace. Training programmes like these, therefore, aim help local community run groups to bridge connections with the UN.  Now, when abuses are suffered in their communities, they have the capacity to report these crimes on an international level.

Solid UN-approved evidence of Burma’s war crimes are tantamount to gaining international support for the country’s victims of war, both political and funding for relief and development. However, the international body often struggles to gain information from areas of war due to restrictions put in place the ruling military regime. Therefore, these community workers have been very enthusiastic to begin recording cases of abuse, which they come across regularly, and then report directly.

This also comes at a crucial time politically, as western governments across the globe are calling for the UN to implement a Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights Abuses in Burma. It is crucial that the UN is receiving up-to-date reports on the horrific crimes committed by the Burma Army from all angles so that these calls can be acted upon.

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WIN gives presentation to the European Union

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.



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Pic of the day: the closest thing to a family home

For thousands of people in Eastern Myanmar, the family home environment is without walls, deep in the jungle where they hide from the Burma Army. Shelters like these just about keep children protected from the insects on the ground and the pouring rains from above, but provide little consolation for the years of oppression keeping them forever homeless.

These people are living like this now, and those that have survived the nearly finished monsoon current await the annual military offensive that could force them to leave once again, with all the possessions they can carry, to avoid being shot, arrested or taken as slave workers by Burma’s ruling military regime. Visit http://www.worldwide-impact-now.org to learn more about how you can help them today.

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Community Media: A month of inspirational training

Over the past month, Worldwide Impact Now has provided media skills training for members of 3 Karen communities working from the border, deep in the war zone and in central Burma. Covering basic journalism, camera work, video editing and advocacy strategy, these trainings have taken the skills of already experienced video documenters to new heights.

Video training in Karen State

At this time, the education of their people through media is critical due to the upcoming sham national elections that will threaten to solidify the current dictator’s grip on power for another generation, and the inevitable military offensive directed at the Karen people that comes with every dry season. We are now providing technical support and guidance on a number of Karen-led projects to do just this, distributing DVDs and MP4s to communities that have been denied access to independent media for their entire lives.

Every year, when the rain stops, the attacks begin. The Burma Army move into areas where the Karen National Union (KNU) are present and systematically devastate entire communities in a matter of days. Villages will be shelled with mortars from a distance before being entered and burnt to the ground, leaving little behind but burning embers and anti-personnel landmines. Following such attacks, hundreds, if not thousands, of villagers will be forced to leave their homes and hide in the jungle to avoid being arrested, beaten or killed, as they are every year.

Media Advocacy Strategy Training

WIN has worked with people in these zones to develop specific shooting plans to document this entire process from the outbreak of conflict through to the documentation of life in hiding. We are also empowering numerous community groups with the knowledge of international human rights mechanisms to collect incident details for the United Nations.

Working with these people on these training courses has been an inspiration for all those on the ground working for WIN. The determination among these young people to resists the temptation to seek asylum in refugee camps or resettle to the west and stay working to help their communities is remarkable and keeps us motivated everyday.

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Pic of the day: Three Generations of War Victims

Three Generations of War Victims: Still No Home

End of July 2010, this grandmother, mother and son were forced to leave their homes to avoid a Burma Army attack . While they were gone, the soldiers burnt down the entire village and destroyed all the food they could find. Today, they are back, rebuilding their homes, while tens of thousands more remain hiding in the jungle following similar attacks.

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Burma on the brink of civil war: the people

Another ominous chapter ahead for Burma’s ethnic minorities as SPDC troops arrive on their doorsteps

In all wars, regardless of political persuasions or ideologies, civilian families are unjustly caught between conflicts. But in Burma the threat to the people is particularly severe, following decades of draconian military rule and total disregard for human rights.

Mon internally displaced families seek refuge in NMSP territory

Already, as SPDC troops move in on non-state armed groups’ territories, or “ceasefire zones”, thousands of civilians have been forced to flee their homes, many not for the first time, in search of refuge. Some have moved into Thailand across its northern and western borders while others have remained in Burma fleeing to the jungle or deeper into ceasefire zones.

In the past week alone mass relocation was documented in and from regions under the control of the United Wa State Army (UWSA), the New Mon State Party (NMSP), the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) and the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA).  There are already estimated to be between 1-3 million internally displaced people in Burma and over 150,000 refugees in Thailand. These figures could rise dramatically if the SPDC carries out its threats that “war will break out like it did in 1989.”

Trade has all but stopped on the Thai- Shan State border as a result of local fears of conflict and increased SPDC scrutiny at checkpoints. As a result, local markets have upped their prices dramatically. On one stretch of road between Tachilek and Monghsat it has been reported that there are no less than 20 SPDC checkpoints and as a result vegetable prices have gone up 30% or more.

Forced to operate under a self-reliance policy, SPDC battalions are notorious for exploitation of locals, in some cases surviving solely from extortion and forced labor. Traders and travelers are routinely stopped at checkpoints in ethnic regions and forced to pay bribes, give gas or their hand over produce. Such measures put local business and livelihoods under severe strain. This is at its worst in conflict regions where acute poverty and neglect of civilian needs has led to under-5 mortality rates being as high as 20%.

As part of its counter-insurgency strategy, the SPDC systematically targets civilians in an effort to cut off all possible support for armed opposition groups. By destroying entire villages, targeting schools and hospitals it aims to destabilise communities and keep them under strict martial law. In 2009 alone over 100,000 people were displaced in Eastern Burma, including over 60,000 in Shan State, home to the highest number of ceasefire groups. The region was totally independent from Burma until the British conquered it in the 19th century and is home to many different ethnic nationalities, many of which demand far greater autonomy than the SPDC will allow.

Upcoming events in Burma’s ethnic regions are hard to predict but the clearest indicators that heightened conflict is imminent have been shown by the civilians who have fled their homes, stopped trading or put prices up on their market stalls. For the older generations who experienced widespread civil war in the 1980s these are likely all warning signs of a return to the struggle of living amongst conflict.

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