Category Archives: Military

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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Burma in the News: Landmine Victims Find Solace at Mae La

The choir at Care Villa sing. (Photo: Alex Ellgee/The Irrawaddy)

According to The Irrawaddy (published April 10, 2010):

As the last rays of sun beam through the wooden wall, the choir assembles in the hut. Without delay, the men bellow out the first verse of a Karen song.

One member of the choir tilts his head back, seemingly fully engrossed in the sounds around him while another raises his amputated arm to his ear. The back row breaks off into a harmony filling the room with melancholic songs of freedom and hope for their people.

They have been brought together by a love of music, but this is not your average choir. These men have formed a bond as a result of their near-fatal encounters with landmines.

“In my village, I had never seen a blind man or a person without a limb, so when I lost my sight I felt like such an outsider and lost all hope,” said Has Ka Tarai, who at 15 years of age, is the youngest member of the choir.

When he was 12, Burmese government forces stormed his village, deep in Karen State, burning down all the homes. He and his mother fled to the jungle where they hid for days till they thought it would be safe to return.

As they walked up the hill to the village, Has Ka Tarai recalls being excited to return home. Suddenly he was knocked to the ground; he had hit a landmine with a knife he was playing with.

He says he remembers feeling a pain in his eyes, something he compares to ants eating out his eyeballs. He remembers the sound of his mother shouting and crying. He was blinded and lost much of his hearing.

It has been well documented that the Burmese army often leaves landmines outside villages they raid in order to deter people from returning to their homes. By doing so, they are able to control more territory and leave a psychological scar on the jungle communities who reject their rule.

For two months, Has Ka Tarai’s eyes went untreated until a Free Burma Ranger medic came to the village. Seeing how severe his condition was, the medic took him all the way to Chiang Mai in Thailand. Has Ka Tasrai was told he would never see again.

He didn’t want to go back to his village, fearing for his life. Instead, he was offered a chance to stay at “Care Villa,” a foundation set up in 2000 by the Karen Handicap Welfare Association to look after landmine victims at Mae La Refugee Camp in Thailand.

Not only have many of the residents at Care Villa lost limbs, but many have lost their sight as well. Basic daily activities can be extremely difficult for them. Before coming to Care Villa, many of them stayed with friends or family who were unable to help satisfactorily. Many say they fell into heavy depression.

Continue reading the article here

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Filed under Burma in the News, Free Burma Rangers, Internal Displacement, Landmine Victims, Military, Reports, The Karen, The People

Burma in the News: Opposition to Boycott Myanmar Vote

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is a Burmese opposition politician, General Secretary of the National League for Democracy and the recipient of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize.

According to the NY Times (published March 29, 2010):

BANGKOK — “After months of internal debate, members of the party of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the long-detained pro-democracy leader, defied Myanmar’s junta by announcing Monday they would boycott the country’s first elections in two decades.

“The move raises questions about both the future of the Burmese opposition and the credibility of the vote.

“According to election laws the junta released earlier this month, the decision means that the party that has served as the mainstay of the country’s democratic movement for two decades, the National League for Democracy, will be automatically dissolved. Western governments, including the United States and Britain, had said that Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi’s participation and that of her party were prerequisites for legitimate elections.

“On Monday, U Win Tin, a founding member and strategist for the party, said that more than 100 party delegates were unanimous in their decision. ‘We will ask the people around us not to vote in the election: Please boycott,’ he said in a telephone interview. He said that the party would try to continue political activities after it is disbanded. ‘We will work for the people,’ he said.

“The party had been split over whether to contest the elections, forced to choose between participation that would undercut its principles and a boycott that would dissolve it. Last week, Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi said through a spokesman that she viewed the election process as “unjust” and that she felt that the party should not contest.

“’They made a decision to maintain their dignity,’ said Win Min, a lecturer in contemporary Burmese politics at Payap University in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. ‘They wanted to keep Aung San Suu Kyi as their leader. On the other hand, what is their alternative after this?

“Mr. Win Min said the National League for Democracy would likely be disbanded by May 6, a deadline set in the election laws. The party’s assets, including offices, might be seized. ‘Some members may be planning to set up a new party,’ Mr. Win Min said.

“The ruling generals portray the vote as part of a “roadmap” to democracy after 48 years of military rule, while diplomats and exile groups view it as window-dressing for the junta’s continued hold on power.”

Read the entire article here

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The Harrowing Tale of a Refugee Mother Named Rahima, Part 4

And to conclude…read part one, part two and part three

Rahima came to Mae Sot when all hope was lost for a good life in Burma. Now, after being left by two husbands, she is a single mother of two and spends her days on the streets of Mae Sot collecting glass and plastic to sell for recycling.

“I don’t need a husband. I’ve had enough of all that. I’ve had two husbands already who divorced me because they couldn’t afford me or our children so they left. I am finished with all of that! I just live in a dream where someone will notice me and resettle me to a third country; somewhere my children can be educated and live a good life.”

“Sometimes I think we could find a better life in Bangkok or Malaysia. But then I look down at my children and think that if I can’t even provide them with food and medicine, how could I ever do something like that? Sometimes I think of giving them to an orphanage but I can’t because they are not Thai or Karen. I have no optimism left. I just live each day to survive.”

With the future looking so bleak for Rahima, and millions of other irregular migrants across Asia, it is hard to draw any positives. But as I leave Rahima, I make sure she knows how inspiring it is to see what people are capable of when it comes to the survival of their family. The strength between Rahima and her children that has kept them together against all odds is more impressive than anything most people could hope to achieve, anywhere in the world.

JJ Kim, Advocacy Manager

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Filed under Internal Displacement, Military, Perspective, Refugees, Reports, The Lifestyles, The People

The World Missed The Real Olympics

We missed it.  How easily came the deception of bright games in Vancouver, when the real Olympics played out darkly well beyond the world’s attention and care. The clamoring international media poured exaltation upon adoration on Olympic hopefuls in search of champions with poignant stories of personal trials and tribulation for us to admire.  Yet the real games played out darkly on deadly slopes in the high jungle mountains of Eastern Burma. Here tens of thousands of innocent villagers and defenseless hill tribe refugees were being hunted down – the prize for them being to just stay alive in a race with no end.   Still harder to imagine is that the same international community that pumped tens of millions of dollars into the Vancouver games, also pumps billions of dollars into the hands of Burma’s brutal military dictator – one of the worst human rights violators on the planet.

All the forces of nature in the cyclone that hit Burma with catastrophic devastation in 2008, now pale in comparison to a “more perfect storm” of profit-hungry globalization and consumerism devoid compassion.  This all swirls in perfect indifference and neglect of innocents in Burma, who hope against all odds for a champion for their cause.  As the world and its new Olympians look forward to bright futures, it is now dead winter of the perennial Burma Olympics proceeding  headlong on a dark run with no end in sight for people oppressed…always with hope, but ever without champions.

Tim Heinemann, Founder

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The Harrowing Tale of a Refugee Mother Named Rahima, Part 3

The story continues for Rahima, an Arakanese refugee mother in the border town of Mae Sot, Thailand…read part one and part two

In Burma, soldiers are given total power and often stationed far from home, creating what has been dubbed a “culture of impunity.” Without a strong community to support them, young girls living without homes are among the most vulnerable to abuse. Bad health is also rife on the streets of Burma. While less than 2% of government spending goes to health-care, around 40% is spent strengthening the military, further entrenching the regime’s stranglehold on the nation. Never in her life had Rahima seen a medic or doctor of any kind before she came to Thailand, despite being surrounded by illness.

“We had so many diseases, mainly diarrhea and stomach pains because we had no food. Sometimes we went collecting herbal leaves and boiled them down and drank the broth. That sometimes worked, but most people died. It’s all a blur now, but I’m sure my whole family are dead. My father had a brain stroke, and then my mother died of cancer. Me and my siblings were uncontrollable. We had no food so we came and went and often lost track of each other. One by one, my 8 brothers and sisters just stopped coming back.”

For almost an hour, without tears, Rahima tells me of her childhood, describing the railway station as “worse than anything [she’d] ever heard or learned about hell.” Meanwhile giving her utmost attention to her own two children, both close by her side. Throughout the interview the boy is so sick he has soiled the floor twice, unduly embarrassing his mother.

“My child has had diarrhea for over 20 days now but I have no money. The Thai police wait outside the free clinic [Mae Tao] and arrest foreigners every day. I tell them that we live in Burma and have just come for the clinic but they don’t care, they arrest us and take us to DKBA soldiers on the border.”

The final part of this series will be published in the coming days.

JJ Kim, Advocacy Manager

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Female Village Heads in Karen State Systematically Abused by Burma Army Soldiers

In a new report released by the Karen Women’s Organization (KWO), female village heads from 5 districts of Karen State, eastern Burma, have testified to having suffered or witnessed a long line line of horrific abuses, including crucifixion, people being burnt alive, rape (including gang rape), many forms of torture (including beatings and “water torture”), people being buried up to their heads in earth and beaten to death, arbitrary executions, beheadings  and slave labour.

The report, entitled “Walking Amongst Sharp Knives”, includes interviews with 95 female village heads and offers a mere glimpse at the horrific subjugation and abuse of ethnic minority women inflicted by soldiers of Burma’s ruling military regime.

Photo From KWO's "Walking Amongst Sharp Knives"

The report also describes that “with men increasingly reluctant to risk their lives as chiefs,women have stepped in to assume leadership in the hope of mitigating abuses. However, testimonies of women chiefs show that, far from being exempt from the brutality of the Burma Army, they have faced ongoing systematic abuse, including gender-based violence.”

To download the report in full click here

For six decades, the 49,000 strong KWO has been working for the rights and welfare of Karen women. Click here to visit their website

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